ISRAEL SUPREME Court justices at a hearing. The court has invalidated the infiltrators law..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Supreme Court Justice Zvi Zilbertal on Wednesday temporarily pushed off the start of former Ramat Gan mayor Zvi Bar’s five-and-a-half year jail sentence pending Bar’s appeal of his multiple convictions for bribery, money laundering and other offenses.
Bar had been scheduled to begin his prison sentence September 24, and the reprieve may only be temporary with Zilbertal saying he had not yet ruled on the fundamental issues. He was sentenced by the Tel Aviv District Court in June and also received an NIS 1.5 million fine that is to be paid by October 10.
Bar, Ramat Gan’s mayor from 1989 to 2013, had denied all of the charges, including accusations of accepting around NIS 2 million in bribes and carrying out a series of illegal interventions in real estate transactions in the city.
He was acquitted of some more minor offenses and breach of public trust offenses.
Bar filed an appeal last week and, in parallel, filed a motion to stay his sentence pending the decision on the appeal.
Unusually, while already staying the prison sentence for an unspecified period, Zilbertal said he had not even decided on whether Bar’s sentence would be fully delayed until the appeal was decided or just long enough to have a little more time to review the motion.
Generally, the critical factor for whether to grant an extended stay of a prison sentence pending appeal is an initial decision by the court about what the appeal’s chances of success are. An appeal with a low chance of success is less likely to justify delaying a prison sentence on the grounds of showing justice can be carried out swiftly, whereas an appeal with a high chance of success may be stayed based on the idea that it would be wrong to jail someone only to learn later that their conviction was thrown out.
The state has called Bar’s crimes “monstrous crimes when we are talking about a public servant” and said there was no chance of the appeal succeeding, while Bar’s lawyer Navot Tel-Tzur tried to poke a variety of holes in the conviction, including that it was based on findings that should have justified his acquittal.
Bar had asked for community service, saying his actions had not hurt others and in recognition of his many years of public service. The prosecution had sought a nine-year prison sentence and NIS 5 million fine.
While the court’s sentence could be viewed as a midpoint, overall it was a heavy in the scheme of potential bribery sentences with the court saying Bar was “central,” “involved in all of the bribery schemes” and that he had “exploited his high position to obtain bribes.”
Bar’s sentence had completed a series of victories by the prosecution against a range of mayors including Yitzhak Rochberger of Ramat Gan, Shimon Gafsou of Upper Nazareth and Shlomo Lahiani of Bat Yam.
Bar announced his resignation as mayor in July 2013 following an NGO’s petition to the High Court of Justice to fire him – but served out his term until the October 2013 municipal elections.