The Tel Aviv District Court on Monday sentenced a former Maccabiah Games
wrestling champion to 20 years in prison for manslaughter, robbery and
Sergey Shitznin was convicted under a plea bargain in which he
admitted to the manslaughter of Ariyeh Gazit in January 2010. The court also
ordered him to pay the victim’s widow NIS 150,000 compensation.
plea bargain did not include any deal over sentencing, the panel of judges ruled
to impose the maximum penalty for manslaughter because of the severity of the
Shitznin represented Israel in several international wrestling
competitions and won a gold medal in the sport in the 1997 Maccabiah
During the trial, the court learned how Shitznin descended from
sporting glory to the seedy world of violent crime.
His victim, Gazit,
was left to die from serious head injuries sustained during a brutal, violent
and meticulously-plotted robbery that judges Sarah Dotan, Shaul Shohat and
Daphna Avniely said brought to mind the acts of ‘ultra-violence’ in Anthony
Burgess’s 1962 dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange.
“[Gazit] was left
lying in a pool of his own blood and excrement, in utter violation of all human
dignity and disregard for his severe vulnerability after the violent blows he
received from the defendant,” said Avniely, who added that Shitznin used his
martial arts skills to severely beat his elderly victim.
The judges noted
in their ruling that Shitznin had two distinct personalities. He was a notable
sportsman whose friends came to court to testify about his kindness and
dedication to coaching others.
Shitznin’s other personality, the judges
said, was the exact opposite – dark and contemptuous of human
Police arrested three men in connection with the robbery, all of
whom are suspected of terrorizing money changers in the Tel Aviv Central Bus
Station. The two others, 25-year-old Rehovot resident Sapir Verton and 25-year-old Shalva Dzidzishvili from Rishon Lezion are suspected of plotting the
robbery and are being tried separately.
Police are still looking for
another man, known only as “Andrei,” a martial arts specialist, whom they
suspect of committing the robbery and manslaughter alongside
According to the indictment, in December 2009 Verton and
Dzidzishvili enlisted Shitznin and Andrei to rob Gazit’s money-changing
business, the Alpha Wings Gold and Finance Ltd in Tel Aviv’s new central bus
In the weeks leading up to the robbery, the indictment charged
that Shitznin’s accomplices plotted the details of their crime. They agreed that
it should be Shitznin, the wrestling champion, who carried out the robbery, on
the grounds of his great strength and agility.
While Shitznin used his
skills to break and enter the store, the men allegedly planned that “Andrei”
would rush inside, beat up Gazit to prevent him calling for help, and steal
money held in the store’s safe.
As part of the meticulous planning, the
indictment alleges, Shitznin and his collaborators conducted surveillance of
Gazit’s shop and the area around the bus station.
handcuffs to tie Gazit up, and disposable cellphones so that they would not have
to use their own, traceable phones during the crime.
carefully planned robbery Shitznin and “Andrei” committed resulted in Gazit’s
Shortly before 8 a.m. on December 17, 2010, the men put
their plan into action.
Andrei entered the shop first and – exactly as
planned – hit Gazit on the head.
Together, Andrei and Shitznin handcuffed
the injured shop owner, then took a computer mouse cable and used it to strangle
him, to make him confess where he kept the keys to the safe.
his accomplice then made off with $239,000 in cash and the shop’s security
cameras, leaving Gazit unconscious and bleeding on the floor of his
The blow to the head Gazit had sustained resulted in serious head
injuries. He was found and taken to hospital, but died 11 days
After the robbery, Shitznin left the country, but by tapping the
phones of the other suspects in the case, police investigators learned that he
planned to return. Shitznin was arrested on his return.
During the trial,
the court heard expert testimony from Dr. Razon, the neurosurgeon who treated
Gazit after he was rushed to hospital, who described the severity of his
The judges also said they had taken into account the impact
statement made by Gazit’s widow. As is standard with criminal trials, the
victim’s family are allowed to testify in court regarding how the crime has
Gazit’s widow told the court that her husband was the
orphaned son of Holocaust survivors whose death had caused “the breakdown of his
entire family.” Gazit had supported his family financially, and after his death
his widow was forced to come out of retirement and return to work as a