Teens convicted of death by negligence

Jerusalem District Juvenile Court convicts two teenagers for fatally beating a man over the head with a wooden plank.

February 23, 2012 03:49
3 minute read.
A screenshot from the YouTube video

kikar hahatulot beating 311. (photo credit: YouTube)


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The Jerusalem District Juvenile Court convicted two teenage boys on Wednesday of causing death by negligence, after they fatally beat an American-born man over the head with a wooden plank when he refused to give them a cigarette.

The two youths, who cannot be named because they are minors, were indicted in September 2010 for manslaughter, a more serious charge. Their victim, Lance Wolf, was a 60-year-old American citizen who had been living in Israel for over a decade.

The killing took place in the early hours of August 18, 2010, when the two youths, then aged 14 and 15 and both from the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood of Jerusalem, went out drinking in the center of the capital.

According to the indictment, the two boys went to “Cat Square” on Hillel Street, where they drank a bottle of vodka. One of the boys approached Wolf, and asked him for a cigarette. Wolf refused and cursed the boys in English. Shortly afterward, the two teenagers went over to Wolf, each carrying a wooden plank, and hit him over the head. Wolf collapsed, and the boys fled, the indictment said.

Wolf was rushed to hospital, where he underwent emergency brain surgery, but died five days later. The hospital’s pathology report listed his cause of death as an intracranial hemorrhage. As part of the prosecution’s case, a medical expert testified in court that Wolf had died as a result of the blow he received to his head, and not from any other illness.

The indictment charged that the two boys decided together to beat Wolf to “teach him a lesson.”

The two defendants, however, told the court a different story. The first defendant admitted asking Wolf for a cigarette, and said that Wolf refused. He testified that he later wandered over to Wolf, while randomly playing with a plank of wood, and that Wolf had stood up and threatened him with a bottle.

The youth said he tried to defend himself, and hit Wolf with the plank, but not in order to cause harm and certainly not to kill him. The second youth testified that he had nothing to do with hitting Wolf, and that the first defendant had done everything himself.

In convicting the teenagers, Judge Raphael Carmel said that the events in Cat’s Square had been recorded on a CCTV camera, and that the recording shows two people walking towards Wolf, and then returning to him carrying planks. The tape shows Wolf rising from his seat, taking a step towards the first youth and pushing him before that youth hit him over the head with the plank.

The judge said that the court had to decide what had happened in those crucial seconds in which the two youths walked over to Wolf.

Carmel said that Wolf had not presented any threat to the defendants, and that the blow they inflicted on him was disproportionate to the events that preceded it. The judge also said that the two youths had gone over to Wolf to provoke him.

With regard to the second defendant’s testimony that he had had nothing to do with the attack on Wolf, the judge said the two defendants had acted together.

“The two went together, as one person, to confront [Wolf],” the judge said. “Each held a large wooden beam, and even if they had picked up the beams to play with them, they did not go over to [Wolf] to play.”

The two youths will be sentenced at a later date. While the Penal Code stipulates a three-year prison sentence for adults convicted of causing death by negligence, it is likely the two defendants in this case will receive a lesser sentence, because they are minors.

The Seattle-born Wolf arrived in Israel 10 years ago after traveling in Europe for a few years. He had a family history of alcoholism, and struggled with the disease for decades. He was married twice in the US, and had two sons and a daughter. Wolf was estranged from his sons but maintained sporadic email contact with his daughter.

He also had three grandchildren.

Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.

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