Shas MK Ya'ir Peretz's attorney on Wednesday asked the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court to refrain from convicting him and not to rule that he had committed a crime involving moral turpitude.
Yehuda Weinstein made the request during a hearing on sentencing pleas for Peretz, who has already confessed in a plea bargain agreement to falsely obtaining a degree from the local branch of Burlington University, after he handed in two papers he had not written.
One of the witnesses who testified on his behalf was poet Erez Biton. Biton, who was blinded at the age of 11, called Peretz "the social worker of the Knesset" and said that he had often been moved by Peretz's commitment to acts of kindness.
He told Judge Miri Diskin that Peretz had organized events on behalf of the blind at the home of President Moshe Katzav. "He did these things not from a position of superiority, and they were acts that never received media publicity," said Biton.
Another witness, who is head of a kollel in Beit Shemesh, told the court that Peretz had helped the family of his brother who had died after a kidney operation, leaving 14 children. The witness called Peretz "the saving angel" and said he had no words to describe the help that the MK had provided his sister-in-law's family.
Despite the praise, the state prosecution told the court it would ask it to convict Peretz, give him a suspended jail sentence and declare that his crime involved moral turpitude. If the court accedes to the second request, Peretz, who is currently in the number 14 slot on the Shas Knesset slate, would not be able to serve in parliament for seven years.
Peretz was accused of photocopying two papers written by another student, substituting his name for hers and submitting them as part of his academic requirements. The college also waived his NIS 25,000 tuition fee.
It took Peretz three months to receive his degree from the time he enrolled in the branch in February 1998. After receiving it, he applied for an addition to his Knesset salary on the basis of the academic degree.
Peretz confessed to this charge in the context of the plea bargain agreement, in return for which the prosecution's agreed to drop another charge against him for allegedly trying to falsely obtain an academic degree from Bar-Ilan University.