Report: Public defender who killed himself had been accused by police of aiding criminal

One month before deputy public defender David Weiner committed suicide, a police investigator accused him of “almost crossing the lines,” according to

By DAN IZENBERG
October 12, 2005 00:00
4 minute read.

 
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One month before deputy public defender David Weiner committed suicide, a police investigator accused him of “almost crossing the lines,” according to a report on the circumstances of Weiner’s death released Tuesday by the Ministry of Justice. The harsh interrogation of Weiner had been spurred by a police investigation into the way he mediated between convicted killer Yitzhak Tzeziashvili and state prosecution in connection with the murder of Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Adi Azar. Before Azar’s murder, Weiner and another lawyer hired by the Public Defender’s Office, Sagiv Bar-Shalom, had taken it upon themselves to represent Tzeziashvili in his request for a retrial. Tzeziashvili had been convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for a killing in Haifa nine years earlier. He is currently standing trial in Jerusalem District Court for masterminding Azar’s assassination. After Weiner shot himself on December 31, 2004 amid accusations that the state prosecution had betrayed him, the Justice Ministry appointed a three-man committee headed by Deputy Attorney General Yehoshua Schoffman to investigate the developments that led to Weiner’s suicide. According to the report, after Azar’s murder, Weiner and Bar-Shalom asked for an urgent meeting with Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and told him they represented a client who knew where the gun used to kill Azar was located. Their client, whom they did not name, was prepared to hand over the information in return for a deal whereby he would be granted a new trial, would be convicted of a lesser crime and allowed to go free on the basis of the time he had already served in prison. During an urgent consultation that night, Mazuz learned that the client in question was Tzeziashvili. A few days later, police informed Mazuz that there might be a link between Tzeziashvili and the Azar murder. Weiner was not privy to this information and continued to represent Tzeziashvili. Meanwhile, Tzeziashvili told Weiner he had information on plans for another killing but would not tell the state prosecution unless it agreed to his terms. He told Weiner to tell the state prosecution that unless he received an answer in 48 hours, “it would be all over.” Weiner conveyed this message to State Attorney Shendar. According to the Schoffman report, “Shendar had the impression that Weiner was extremely agitated, that he did not imagine that his client was the judge’s killer and that the prosecution could prevent another tragedy if it complied with Tzeziashvili’s proposal.” Meanwhile, the police began recording Weiner’s phone conversations with Tzeziashvili, in which Tzeziashvili repeated his ultimatum to Weiner through other inmates because he was not allowed to speak on the phone himself. In one conversation, Weiner said, “Tell him [Tzeziashvili] I love him.” As the secret investigation continued, the police and the State Attorney’s Office decided to ask the court for permission to transcribe the conversations despite the lawyer-client privilege. On November 24, 2004, Judge Sarah Sirota ruled in favor, stating that the content of the conversations between Weiner and Tzeziashvili involved “a relationship between criminals” that could lead to charges of conspiracy, concealing of evidence and extortion. Two days later, Weiner underwent the harsh police interrogation in which Ch.-Supt. Yossi Bnaim told him, “Your conversations and actions are in the grey area, on the thin boundary of crossing the lines.” Weiner refused to reply to the Bnaim’s questions, but tried to persuade Bnaim that he was acting out of the sincere belief that he was saving lives. After the interrogation, “there was a change in Weiner’s mood,” wrote Schoffman. “He was very worried about the facts that would be coming out and the damage to his reputation. He was frustrated, disturbed and had trouble sleeping. He feared that his colleagues in the Justice Ministry, with whom he had worked for many years, would think he had behaved unacceptably.” Over the next month his emotional situation deteriorated. According to the report, he wrote a letter of resignation from the Central Committee of the Israel Bar and considered resigning from the Public Defender’s Office and quitting law, finally deciding to commit suicide.

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