Legal Affairs: Weinstein’s test case

The Ramon wiretap saga finally forced the A-G to take a stand in the ongoing struggle between law-enforcement and their critics.

Weinstein 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Weinstein 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Haim Ramon is still not satisfied.
Even after a report was issued earlier this week by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, accusing four senior officials in the police and State Attorney’s Office of “substantial negligence” and recommending that disciplinary measures be considered against them, the former cabinet minister and MK wants more.
In the past few days, Ramon has made it clear that even now, after the wiretapping affair pertaining to his trial on sexual misconduct charges has been examined twice by independent investigators, both of whom found no signs of criminal conduct, he wants to see these senior officials behind bars, or at least facing criminal charges.
The wiretapping affair has to do with the failure of the police and state prosecution to hand over transcripts of wiretapped conversations to Ramon and his attorney, Dan Scheinemann. The transcripts, it emerged, were part of the investigative evidence gathered by police. By law, the State Attorney’s Office should have handed them over.
The state agreed that it had fouled up and that the material should have been included with the rest of the evidence. However, it maintained that the mistake was not deliberate and that no malice was intended. It was a matter of human error and no more.
Although Scheinemann, who heard about the wiretapped conversations from an anonymous source, had to ask the prosecution four times about the missing material, the state, when it realized its mistake, handed it over immediately. State Attorney Moshe Lador stressed that it took less than 48 hours to correct the mistake. He also said, as the presiding judge had determined before him, that the material had no effect on the case itself.
Both retired judge Shalom Brenner and Lindenstrauss agreed with Lador that the withholding of the material was not deliberate.
They also agreed that the oversight was more serious than the police and the State Attorney’s Office made it out to be.
But Ramon would have none of it. On Wednesday, he wrote to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, calling on him to appoint “a senior lawyer, outside the prosecution, an expert on criminal matters, to take your place in investigating the matter.” Weinstein had already explained the day before that he was prohibited from handling the affair in accordance with a conflict of interest agreement he had signed before his appointment to public office.
IN ASKING for an outside investigation, Ramon explained that an internal one would be biased in favor of the suspects: “The entire top echelon of the state prosecution is involved in a clearcut conflict of interests. Any involvement in the affair necessarily means being involved with those mentioned in the State Comptroller’s opinion, and particularly the two prosecutors [Ruth David and Ariella Segal-Antler], whom everyone in the state prosecution knows personally.”
Ramon’s request put Weinstein on the public hot spot for the first time since being appointed attorney-general in January.
One of the most striking factors of his tenure so far is that he has remained almost entirely outside the public eye.
Weinstein has made virtually no public pronouncements (except for an almost mandatory speech at the Israel Bar conference in Eilat.) His opinion on most of the public controversies surrounding the objectivity, fairness and professionalism of the law enforcement agencies, including the state prosecution which he heads, is known only to his closest associates, if at all.
Thus, his decision regarding Ramon’s request potentially stood to clarify Weinstein’s position on these matters.
Had he, for example, bowed to Ramon’s demand, he might have been indicating that he was sympathetic to those, like former justice minister Daniel Friedmann, Ramon, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, former president Moshe Katsav and former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who maintain that the law enforcement agencies are biased and deliberately target elected representatives who are not to their liking.
But he did not do so. By rejecting Ramon’s request, Weinstein gave a clear vote of confidence to the established law enforcement system.
This decision was not to be taken for granted.
The police and the state prosecution are involved in an escalating battle with their critics, who, today, as noted above, include some of the most powerful, or formerly powerful, people in the country. People like Lador and former Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz unequivocally regard these critics as seeking to damage the rule of law for their own personal interests.
Weinstein stepped into this particular fray as an outsider without a lifetime’s investment in the law enforcement establishment.
He could have behaved like Friedmann and tried to undermine the existing institutions, including the state prosecution and the Supreme Court, from within the system. In this case, at least, he chose to defend the system instead.