Rehovot hit-and-run driver gets 7 years in prison

Sagi Gamliel drove home, went to sleep after killing Kiryat Gat man; Victim’s niece says she's saddened by the punishment.

January 29, 2012 23:38
2 minute read.
Hit-and-run accident ambulence

Hit-and-run accident ambulence_311. (photo credit: Uzi Barak )


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A resident of Rehovot was sentenced to seven years behind bars on Sunday for striking and killing a pedestrian while intoxicated, and then driving home without stopping to offer assistance.

The driver, Sagi Gamliel, who was 19 at the time, had been drinking in the hours before getting behind the wheel in 2010. His girlfriend, Yonit Hamema, was a front-seat passenger, according to the charge sheet.

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Their vehicle struck 67-year-old pedestrian Shmuel Rotshtein, from Kiryat Gat, who was on his way to work early in the morning. Instead of stopping, Gamliel and his girlfriend drove home and went to bed, only to be woken by police a few hours later.

Gamliel was charged with manslaughter, abandoning an injured person after an accident, and driving while intoxicated.

In addition to the prison sentence, the Central District Court in Petah Tikva passed down a 12- month suspended sentence, and ordered Gamliel to pay a NIS 25,000 fine as compensation. The court also revoked Gamliel’s driving license for 15 years. The sentencing came after Gamliel agreed to a plea bargain. Hamema has not confessed to the charge of assisting a suspect to abandon an injured person after an accident. Her trial is under way.

“I am truly saddened that the justice system in Israel saw this as an appropriate punishment,” the victim’s niece Rutie Bell told The Jerusalem Post from her home in the US.

Bell said Gamliel’s actions demonstrated a complete callousness for human life.

“This sentence does not send the appropriate message to Israelis,” she said. “It insults the memory of my uncle. The blood of my uncle is on Mr. Gamliel’s hands, but the blood of future victims of drinking and driving is on the hands of the Israeli justice system.”

Gamliel’s lawyers said he suffered from schizophrenia and had been using alcohol to self-medicate.

Although Judge Varda Maroz accepted that Gamliel suffered from a psychological condition, she wrote in her verdict that Gamliel drank “in a social setting” prior to the accident, adding that it had not been proven that the drinking was linked “to the defendant’s claimed disease.”

Even if Gamliel did have a psychological condition, Bell said, “what will happen after he gets out? I don’t understand the message that the judge is sending. I feel sorry for everyone in this situation, but I don’t get it.”

Last year, Bell told the Post, “Shmuel was someone’s husband, father, brother, uncle, friend... He was a good man... Shmuel never asked anyone for anything. He was just a kind and gentle soul.”

Meanwhile, two hit-and-run accidents were reported over the past 24 hours. Police in Haifa suspect that a teenager found injured on a roadside was the victim of a hitand- run. The youth was rushed to the city’s Rambam Medical Center.

In Tel Aviv, a woman was struck and seriously injured on Saturday night while walking on Jabotinsky Street. She was evacuated to Ichilov Hospital in the city. Police said the driver sped away from the scene.

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