Ex-Jerusalem District police chief gets jail time for sexual harassment

District court reversal of lower court acquittal led to a 10-month sentence

Israel Police vehicle (Illustrative) (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Israel Police vehicle (Illustrative)
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Ex-Jerusalem District police chief Nisso Shaham was sentenced on Monday to 10 months in jail on the charge of sexually harassing female officers under his command in a stunning reversal of fortune.
Shaham had been acquitted of sexual harassment at the lower magistrate court level and was sentenced to community service in December 2018, leading to an explosion of public outrage from women’s rights advocates.
However, in September 2019, the Tel Aviv District Court reversed the acquittal and sent the case back to the lower court for resentencing.
The latest decisions have restored to the headlines a case that shook the entire police force and has been at the forefront of public debates about the #MeToo movement’s success in Israel.
The reversal came after the prosecution appealed both the acquittals and the lenient sentence, and succeeded in convincing the district court of Shaham’s guilt, with the court condemning his actions in the harshest terms.
Shaham’s lawyers have slammed the latest decisions as ignoring the original magistrate’s court’s findings of fact, since only that lower court had had the benefit of viewing all of the witnesses live.
Typically, witnesses do not testify in appeals proceedings, and appeals courts only correct lower courts on misinterpretations of the law.
Shaham’s lawyers said the district court went beyond its authority by correcting the lower court on findings of fact, saying they would eventually appeal to the Supreme Court.
Executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, Orit Sulitzeanu, said the court’s decision to try Shaham, one of the country’s most senior police officers, was a worthy decision.
“The district court has left no room for doubt as to the criminal nature of his action,” she said.
“His sentence should have been more severe because, as a law enforcement officer, he was expected to adhere to standards of morality and law,” Sulitzeanu continued, “and not as a man who exploits his power to satisfy his sexual desires.”
Back in December 2018, Sulitzeanu called Shaham’s community service sentence “shocking, outrageous and inconceivable.”
“Shaham used his authority systematically and repeatedly to exploit young and junior female officers who were in difficult circumstances and needed his help,” she said.
Sulitzeanu especially attacked the court’s explanation that it would give Shaham a lenient sentence due to his public service, whereas she said that his senior law enforcement role meant he should get a more severe punishment.
She added that a survey by the authority for advancement of the status of women found that two-thirds of women have experienced some level of sexual harassment while only around 5% ever report it.
In that light, she said it was unconscionable that when brave women come forward, men who had sexually assaulted them should get off with a slap on the wrist.
Shaham had beaten most of the charges at the magistrate’s court level by admitting to many instances of sexual intimacy with junior officers, but convincing the court that the encounters had been consensual or at the very least ambiguous.
He even appealed the single conviction for indecent assault in which the lower court said he kissed one of the junior officers against her will, though the district court dismissed this appeal.
In October 2013, Shaham resigned his post after he was indicted for sex crimes against multiple female officers who worked under his command.