Analysis: Why did the JCC hoax bomber receive a 10-year sentence?

Thursday's sentence seems overly severe.

JCC bomb threats suspect (photo credit: REUTERS)
JCC bomb threats suspect
(photo credit: REUTERS)
No single factor explains why the autistic JCC hoax bomber from Ashkelon received a severe 10-year jail sentence.
Some have pointed out that rapists have been given shorter sentences; that he was only a minor when he committed many of the crimes; and that an autistic man named Ben Megarry was sentenced in England two years ago to community service for perpetrating bomb hoaxes.
All of this makes Thursday’s sentence seem overly severe.
Questions have been asked about whether the 10-year sentence was designed to avoid further requests by the US to extradite the defendant.
The fact that Tel Aviv District Court Judge Zvi Garfinkle issued such a harsh sentence may have many complex reasons.
First, the teen hacker from Ashkelon has some significant differences from Megarry. The British criminal was far from a lone offender – he was accused of around two dozen incidents.
But two dozen incidents in one country is still a far cry from 2,000 incidents in several countries, a point the judge made.
Whereas Megarry described not fully grasping whether he was acting in the real world or in a dream reality; here the defendant profited NIS 873,000 from his hoaxes (which are now worth NIS 4 million since he has refused to hand over the Bitcoin password to authorities), said the court.
In addition, the court said that he had hired, managed and paid assistants who helped carry out some of the hoaxes.
While there are no reports of Megarry committing crimes after his arrest, the Ashkelon hacker tried numerous times to escape police custody, including using physical force.
Based on these facts and the court-appointed social worker – who added that the hacker was too dangerous and manipulative to release to a therapy situation – the court was concerned about releasing him from jail to standard therapy.
One psychological expert suggested that his autism would best be treated in a therapy situation, and not in prison. Generally speaking, there were disagreements between professionals who evaluated the defendant and asked whether he knew the difference between right and wrong.
However, the court agreed with those who believed that although autistic, he was high functioning enough to know what he was doing. A key element of the court’s decision could be its citing that the defendant carefully followed and recorded the results of his actions. In that light, the court said that he could have faced a jail sentence of up to 15 years in prison minus his autism and status as a minor.
Garfinkle said that 10 years was a leniency.
Finally, Garfinkle mentioned that the US has charged the defendant. This could signal the court’s desire to stave off a US extradition process by giving a severe enough sentence to get US authorities to back off.
However, The Jerusalem Post has learned that it is rare that courts care about such issues, since those concerns are usually held by the prosecution.
Moreover, with a complex case like this and so many countries involved, the strong possibility that the extradition will be equivalent of double jeopardy could block any extradition request. But the Post has learned that such a sentencing strategy would be unlikely even for the prosecution.
With a new US attorney-general on board – who might not be concerned with the case since he did not personally push for the extradition – it remains unclear how important the case would be to the US courts.
Still, this story is not over yet. The defendant’s family has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court whose decision will likely set a series of new precedents regarding autistic-convicted persons.