Ehud Olmert after verdict 370.
(photo credit: Gali Tibbon/Reuters)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert had a virtually perfect record until Monday's Holyland conviction.
Not only that, the majority of observers believed he was on his way to getting off the hook again having ruined the credibility of his main accuser Shmuel Duchner and never actually taken a shekel from anyone directly.
The challenge for Olmert always was that he could not dispute that the money was given – there was too much documentary evidence to prove that.
The challenge for the state was always proving Olmert was controlling everything behind the scenes though his role in the story was always indirect.
So why did the Judge David Rozen convict him in the end? Where did Olmert go wrong? The three main fronts that Olmert had to win on were ruining the credibility of Duchner, separating himself from bribes received by Shula Zaken and separating himself from funds received by his brother Yossi Olmert.
According to Rozen, he failed at all three.
Rozen concluded that even though Duchner was himself a liar and schemer second to none and even though he lied and forged documents in the trial to sweeten his charges against Olmert, that he was telling the truth about the big picture.
Simply put, there was too much documentary evidence of too many suspicious funds going around between the private sector Holyland people like Duchner and his boss Hillel Cherny on one side and a line of public servants like Olmert on the other.
In some ways, Rozen had to make an overall decision about whether Duchner's story was true about bribing two Jerusalem mayors, a Jerusalem deputy mayor and Jerusalem's chief architect, after which believing Duchner's allegations against Olmert as part of the bigger picture was not such a stretch.
And Duchner had been Olmert's strongest front.
Olmert was always going to have trouble explaining how "his right hand" Zaken was taking bribes left and right from Duchner, more than once relating to Olmert's election debts, without him knowing.
Rozen noted that Zaken was prepared to even get convicted on two counts in the Jerusalem corruption trial, having refused to testify, in order to protect Olmert.
He made a strong argument that Zaken acted independently and received at least some bribes clearly designated just for her.
But trying to defend Olmert, Zaken was a mess as a witness on the stand. Few observers, including apparently the judge, took her alibi that Duchner only gave her money and gifts because of their romance seriously (even if there might have been any romance, Duchner was an unambiguously machiavellian person whose sole goal was promoting the Holyland project by any means.) Ultimately Rozen just did not think it was believable that Zaken would have raised so many funds that helped Olmert without crowing to him on her success, whether he ordered it or not.
Then there was Ehud's wayward brother Yossi. Yossi's attempts to defend Ehud in testifying were so poor and incoherent that Ehud's legal team ultimately chose to declare him a liar and asked the court to accept Yossi's statements to police, in which he made some damaging admissions regarding Olmert, than his court testimony.
Collectively, along with a reappearance of Morris Talansky who also gave money to Yossi, proving a pattern of Olmert's benefactors helping Yossi, that was enough for Rozen to be the first to convict an Israeli prime minister, and that without a hint of hesitation.
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