RABBI YOSHIYAHU PINTO.
(photo credit: OFIR AVITAN)
The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto’s appeal of his one-year jail sentence and ordered him to present himself to Nitzan Prison on February 16.
Pinto was sentenced by Tel Aviv District Court Judge Oded Mudrik to his one-year prison sentence as part of a plea bargain in May along with a NIS 1 million fine, a major blow to a man who had fought all out for community service and no jail time.
Seeking to avoid prison, Pinto’s former lawyer, Eyal Rozovsky, had told Judge Mudrik in May that he should only get six months’ community service, because he is a state’s witness who made possible a huge criminal case against former Lahav 443 commander Menashe Arbiv and that other state’s witnesses got off with no jail time.
The state successfully convinced Mudrik in May, and once again the Supreme Court on Tuesday, that Pinto was fortunate, courtesy of the plea bargain, to not be serving five years in prison for bribery, and that one year is a lenient sentence.
After Mudrik’s sentencing Pinto to jail in May, the prosecution declared victoriously, that “even powerful people with connections still get justice for their deeds.”
Later, Pinto fired Rozovsky, who handled the plea bargain, having fired another set of lawyers earlier, and hired Avigdor Feldman to file his Supreme Court appeal, including attempting to introduce new evidence.
The Supreme Court implied at the November 16 hearing that it would not allow Pinto to introduce new evidence since he had accepted a plea bargain.
The charges against Pinto included his trying to bribe the police’s National Fraud Squad head Ephraim Bracha with $200,000 to get information from him about a criminal investigation into the Hazon Yeshaya foundation Pinto was running.
Bracha reported Pinto’s actions to his superiors, then continued to gather evidence on the rabbi.
This summer, Bracha committed suicide following a public campaign against him on a number of fronts, including by followers of Pinto via social media.
Pinto is the founder of the Shuva Israel Yeshiva and a well-known rabbi in both Israel and the US. He is also a descendant of two Sephardi rabbinical dynasties, Pinto and Abuhatzeira.
Forbes has previously listed him as the seventh-richest rabbi in Israel.
Also, at the Supreme Court hearing of the appeal on November 16, The Jerusalem Post’s Marc Israel Sellem and about a dozen other photographers were attacked by Pinto’s supporters while trying to photograph him as he left the courtroom.
According to Sellem, Pinto “arrived with 18 sympathizers to make sure that we would not photograph him,” although Pinto has no court order to prevent photographers from documenting his arrival at hearings on his appeal of his sentence for bribery.
Sellem said that “at the end of the court hearing, his supporters started to beat me. One of them broke my camera and a second one pushed me on the floor.”
The Post’s photographer continued, “The thing that is unacceptable is that inside the Supreme Court, a civilian beat a photographer and prevented me from doing my work.”
Sellem added that it appeared that the court security had not anticipated the attack (there have been many Pinto hearings without attacks on photographers), and that he would be filing a complaint with the police later that night.
“Pinto has more bodyguards than Bibi,” Sellem remarked ironically.