Judge: Multitude of acts a reason for severe punishment

Former president Moshe Katsav set to receive sentence in rape trial concluding a years-long saga; protesters call for strict sentence outside court.

By RON FRIEDMAN, JPOST.COM STAFF
March 22, 2011 08:34
2 minute read.
Former president Moshe Katsav

Katsav walking from court 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)

 
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Judge George Karra began reading the sentencing argument for former president Moshe Katsav on Monday, saying that "the multitude of acts carried out and their continuing nature is reason for severe punishment."

Katsav was convicted in December of rape, sexual harassment, committing an indecent act while using force, harassing a witness and obstruction of justice.

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Hours before the start of the hearing, the media was already in place ready to report on every dramatic development. The parking lot was full of broadcast trucks and dozens of local and international reporters awaited Katsav's arrival.

Outside the courthouse a handful of protesters gathered to express support for Katsav's victims and called for a strict sentence.

Katsav was expected to arrive at the court shortly before 9 am. His wife Gila was not expected to attend the hearing, but other family members were accompanying the former president.

The last minute estimates among legal reporters were that Katsav will be sentenced to a minimum of four years in prison. Anything over eight years would be considered a shockingly severe punishment, according to most experts.

The decision – which carries with it historic significance, not just for Katsav but for the entire legal system and the country as a whole – will bring to an end a two-year trial and a saga that has fascinated the Israeli public for more than five years.



The affair started with claims by Katsav that he was being blackmailed by an employee, and continued through a long investigation into suspicions that he had committed sexual offenses, revelations that a string of women had claimed he raped them, a plea bargain that would have acquitted him from all major charges but which he quickly canceled, two harsh press conferences at which he hurled blanket accusations at the press, and finally a long, seemingly endless trial that culminated in a decisive conviction in December.

Since that day, on which the former president was convicted of two counts of rape, sexual harassment, committing an indecent act while using force, witness harassment and obstruction of justice, the question on everyone’s mind was whether he would serve time in prison and, if so, for how long. A February 22 pre-sentence hearing, in which prosecutors and Katsav’s lawyers presented arguments, failed to reveal much information because the state did not request a specific number of years in prison.

Both the former president and his lawyers have said that what he went through in the years since the affair came to light was punishment enough for a lifetime. During the pre-sentencing hearing, his lawyers referred to him as “a broken vessel” and “a zombie.”

Throughout the trial, he maintained his innocence and continued to accuse his victims of fabricating stories.

Factors that the judges have considered throughout the trial are the repetitive nature of the crimes and Katsav’s abuse of power when he committed them. Two of the rape charges were from his time as a cabinet minister, and the sexual harassment charge was from his term as president. Just as his public service can be measured to his credit, his exploitation of power and authority can be added to his faults.

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