Court convicts 'Jewish Terrorist' of murder

Jerusalem District Court finds Jack Teitel to be sane, criminally responsible for murder of Palestinians between 1997-2008.

January 17, 2013 01:57
4 minute read.
Jack teitel

Jack teitel 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post)


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The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday convicted the “Jewish terrorist” Jack Teitel of murdering two Palestinians and an assortment of other crimes.

Crucially, despite Teitel saying that an “angel” had controlled him, the court found that he was not insane and was “responsible for his actions,” which made it more likely that he will get a maximum life sentence.

In May, the court had accepted an unusual plea bargain made between the district attorney and lawyers representing Teitel, and determined that the defendant had murdered two Palestinians and committed other violent crimes from 1997 to 2008.

Judges Zvi Segal, Moshe Hacohen and Moshe Yair Drori said the court determined that Teitel committed the acts attributed to him in an amended indictment.

This indictment includes 10 of the original 14 charges against him, including two murders and two attempted murders, after the prosecution agreed to remove charges relating to attempted attacks that the authorities had foiled and general language about Teitel’s hatred for those who disagreed with or were different from him being the motivator for his crimes.

The court did not formally convict Teitel until Wednesday after carefully review whether he could be held criminally responsible for his actions when he committed the offenses.

Although he agreed to admit to the charges, Teitel refused to plead guilty in court because he does not recognize its authority.

Instead, in a highly unusual procedure that required special court approval, his attorney Asher Ohayon told the court that Teitel admitted to the charges in the amended indictment.

Courts normally require an accused to admit to an offense in-person as a safeguard to his rights, to be sure he has not been coerced, or is confused about what he is admitting to.

Dubbed “the Jewish terrorist,” Florida-born Teitel, 39, was originally indicted in 2009.

He is charged with the 1997 murder of Palestinian taxi driver Samir Balbisi, who was found shot dead in his cab.

According to the indictment, in around May 1997, when Teitel was still in the US, he decided to murder Palestinians and came to Israel for that purpose, smuggling a gun into the country by hiding it in a VCR.

Teitel spent his first weeks in Israel with friends in Jerusalem.

Later, he acquired bullets for his smuggled gun, and sought out a suitable victim.

The indictment said Teitel chose to murder an Arab taxi driver because he thought he could ask the driver to first drive him to a suitable spot.

On June 8, 1997, Teitel went to the Arab taxi stand at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, the indictment said, where he hired Balbisi and told him to take him to a hotel.

After driving for a while, however, Teitel told Balbisi to stop and wait, before shooting the Palestinian in the head at point-blank range.

The indictment also charges Teitel with the murder of a second Palestinian man, Beduin shepherd Isaa Mousa’af Mahamada, who was shot dead near the West Bank settlement of Carmel, near Hebron, in August 1997.

In 2000, Teitel made aliya and lived in Shvut Rachel, a West Bank settlement north of Jerusalem, where he married and had four children. Also in 2000, he was arrested by police on suspicion of carrying out both of the 1997 murders, but was later released due to lack of evidence.

In March 2008, according to the indictment, Teitel attempted to murder 15-yearold Amiel Ortiz, a Messianic (i.e. Christian) Jewish teen from Ariel.

Teitel sent a bomb in a Purim gift basket to Ortiz’s home, which exploded when the youth opened it.

Other charges include planting homemade explosives in September 2008 at the home of Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell, a left-wing scholar from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Teitel also attempted to murder a resident of the Beit Jamal monastery near Beit Shemesh because he believed its inhabitants were missionaries who tried to convert Jewish children.

He attacked a police station in 2006 during a gay pride parade.

Following his arrest in 2009, Teitel was remanded into custody in a secure psychiatric facility, and though an initial psychiatric assessment in 2010 deemed him unfit to stand trial, later tests showed that he was able to face prosecution.

Teitel’s lawyers argued that their client did not know right from wrong when he committed the acts, and therefore the court could not impose a prison term.

There were even arguments that an “angel” had controlled his actions and at least one expert said that Teitel was insane. But the prosecution successfully argued that Teitel was responsible for his actions when committing the crimes.

The court said that it accepted another expert opinion that regardless of whether Teitel may have had episodes of insanity during his trial and imprisonment, if he had been insane years earlier when he committed the crimes, he would have deteriorated far more by this time.

Rather, based on the above and the rational manner in which Teitel gave statements to police when arrested, the court agreed with the expert that any episodes of insanity came after the crimes and during imprisonment.

The court made an interim finding that Teitel was sane and criminally responsible on December 7, but the final formal conviction with all of its legal consequences was not announced until Wednesday.

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