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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The finale of Likud MK Nomi Blumenthal's trial came as a shock on Tuesday, when Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court sentenced her to eight months in jail and 10 months suspended on charges of giving an election bribe, obstructing justice and suborning witnesses.
The judges, Ziva Herman-Hadassi, Rachel Greenberg and Dan Mor gave Blumenthal 45 days to appeal her conviction and sentence and agreed to grant her a stay of execution of 45 days on condition that she give the court a guarantee of NIS 50,000 and deposit NIS 30,000 in cash, and hand over her passport. Meanwhile, the court issued an order preventing her from traveling abroad.
She was also fined NIS 75,000.
The court sentenced Likud activist Michael Elnekaveh to three months in jail and nine months suspended for his part in the affair. He was fined NIS 5,000.
Escorted by her husband, Blumenthal left the courtroom without saying a word.
"The accused bought a place of honor in the party's slate of Knesset candidates and therefore saw her investment pay off," wrote the judges. "In this case, it doesn't matter whether the sum of money involved was not large, NIS 12,000, since we all know that the law applies equally to any sum."
According to the charges against her, Blumenthal met with her driver, Avi Oski, who later turned state's witness, and Elnekaveh on December 5, 2002 and decided to invite 12 Likud Party Central Committee members to a swank hotel in Ramat Gan two days later, on the eve of the committee vote for the slate of candidates. Blumenthal paid for the rooms.
One week later, after media reports began to surface about corruption in the Central Committee elections, including allegations aimed at Blumenthal, she summoned the two men and her campaign advisor, Shlomo Harel, to a meeting at 11:00 p.m. in a parking lot and told them to stick to a version of events that she had concocted. According to the story, Elnekaveh had paid for the rooms with money loaned to him from Blumenthal.
The story collapsed when Oski turned state's witness.
In its verdict, the court rejected the main defense submitted by Blumenthal's lawyer to the effect that since it had always been common practice for election candidates to host would-be supporters, Blumenthal should have received advance warning that the state's policy had changed. "We are talking about normative law and behavior," the judges wrote. "Everyone knows that you don't buy votes with money or favors."
The court also ruled that the crimes Blumenthal committed involved moral turpitude.
That meant that she would not be allowed to serve in the Knesset for seven years.
Blumenthal was elected to the 18th spot on the Likud's list of candidates for the 17th Knesset and stood a good chance of being re-elected. The ruling barring her from the Knesset was not final and depended upon whether Blumenthal decided to appeal to the Tel Aviv District Court against her conviction and sentence and the outcome of such an appeal.
NOMI BLUMENTHAL TIMELINE
* December 7, 2002 - Blumenthal pays for rooms of several Likud Central Committee members at Sheraton City Tower Hotel on eve of primaries to choose party's slate of candidates for 16th Knesset.
* December 12, 2002 - After news of the payment leaks out, Blumenthal calls for secret meeting with her driver, Avi Oski, and Michael Elnekaveh in order to devise a version of events aimed at covering up her role in the affair.
* December 2002 - Police launch investigation. Blumenthal refuses to answer questions.
* March 20, 2003 - Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein asks Knesset to lift Blumenthal's immunity. Attached draft of indictment does not mention secret meeting.
* April 2003 - Knesset rejects Rubinstein's bid to lift Blumenthal's immunity.
* September 2003 - Oski turns state witness, testifies that Blumenthal called for secret meeting with him and Elnekaveh to cover up her role.
* October 2003 - Police launch second investigation.