The Central District Court in Petah Tikva sentenced hitand- run driver Tal Mor to 12 years imprisonment on Sunday for killing cyclist Shneor Cheshin.
Mor was also ordered to pay Cheshin’s family NIS 30,000 in compensation and was banned from holding a driver’s license for 20 years.
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Mor, 27, was convicted of Cheshin’s manslaughter earlier this month.
He was also convicted of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, abandoning the scene of an accident, possession of drugs, obstruction of justice and driving without a valid license or insurance.
As he read the judgement, Judge Zacharia Caspi had harsh words for Mor, whom he said had “fled from his soul in order to escape the law.”
Mor, who has been under house arrest since the start of the trial, sat in the front row of the crowded courtroom with his parents and several other family members, all of whom were clad in identical white t-shirts printed with family photographs. Throughout the hearing, Mor sat with his arm around his father’s shoulders, and held his mother’s hand.
Danit, Cheshin’s widow, chose not to attend Sunday’s hearing, but her mother and father were present in court.
In his opening words, Caspi reminded the court how Mor had fled the scene at high speed after hitting and killing Cheshin last June.
Mor had decided to drive back to his trailer home in Kfar Baruch near Afula, even though he had been exhausted following an extensive pub crawl in Tel Aviv, during which he had drank copious amounts of alcohol and smoked marijuana.
At around 4:40 a.m., Mor smashed his car into Cheshin as he cycled along the hard shoulder of Route 5, even though Cheshin was wearing a reflective cycling costume, his bicycle had lights, and the morning was bright and clear, the judge added.
In a previous hearing, Mor’s lawyer Tami Ulman had drawn the anger of Cheshin’s family and cyclists by arguing that Cheshin had been partly to blame for the accident by cycling in the early morning.
The judge said the fault had not been Cheshin’s and cyclists could not be held to blame for hit-and-run accidents.
Caspi said Cheshin’s death had left his family devastated, and referred to a witness statement given by his widow who said the deadly accident had left her and her three young children “broken and bruised.”
In contrast, Mor’s defense team had portrayed Mor as a pleasant, positive and, above all, normative young man who cared for his family.
However, Caspi said Mor could not be considered a normative individual, because he had chosen to drive despite being “saturated” with drugs and alcohol.
“[Mor’s] conduct after fatally injuring a cyclist, when he left his victim bleeding on the road, is also not normative,” said the judge. “A normative person would not try to cover his tracks, like [Mor] did.
He would not make a false report to his insurance agent, he would not cover up his smashed windshield, and he would not have lied to police.”
Mor was convicted of a series of offenses, including driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, the judge said, and has since failed to take responsibility for his actions.
The judge also remarked on Mor’s drug and alcohol abuse habits, noting police had brought photographs of piles of empty alcohol bottles around Mor’s trailer home and photographs of Mor taking drugs.
Finally, Caspi said Mor lied to the court about what had happened.
“While a person may defend himself in court as he sees fit, the version [Mor] gave as the basis of his defense is an invented version to absolve him of blame and guilt,” said the judge. “Therefore I cannot agree that this is a normative young man. A normative young man, would, I think, have acted otherwise.”
After the sentence was pronounced, Mor and his family stood and hugged each other.
Later, outside the courtroom, Danit’s mother, Bella Simkin, said she thought the 12-year sentence was not enough.
“We had wanted 14 years,” Simkin told The Jerusalem Post
. “But we think the judge gave a clear message to the public and we hope this will be a deterrent for other drivers.”
Later, after Mor had been led away by Prisons Service guards to begin his sentence, a heated argument broke out in the court building as Mor’s father, Itzhik, clashed with two of Cheshin’s close friends.
The row was sparked as Mor’s father told reporters the court and police investigators were influenced by the fact that the victim’s father is Michael Cheshin, a retired Supreme Court justice.
“We weren’t surprised at all by the sentence,” said Mor’s father. “The judge had already concluded the verdict before the trial started. The way Tal [Mor] was treated was totally different from any other person accused of manslaughter in a road accident.”
Mor’s father then added that the court had failed to take into account expert witnesses for the defense who had testified that someone else entirely, and not Mor, had hit Cheshin.
“Of course we are going to appeal to the Supreme Court,” Mor’s father said. “But we know that will also be a circus, because all the judges are Cheshin’s friends.”
Giora Even-Tsur and Uzi Birkin, two of Cheshin’s close friends, angrily accused Mor and his family of lying.
Even-Tsur slammed the Mor family’s accusations of bias in the courts as “utter garbage.”
“Running away from the scene of an accident is the worst crime there is,” Even-Tsur added.
“Why can’t your son take responsibility for what he has done?” Birkin asked Mor’s father.
Birkin said the worst part of the trial for Cheshin’s family and friends had been that Mor had lied to the court and had attempted to cover up evidence.
However, Birkin said Caspi had given an “important message to all young people” that could deter others from driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs and also from fleeing the scene of an accident.
“That message is what is important, not Tal Mor,” said Birkin.