Former Nazareth chief judge to be indicted for assault, sexual harassment

The State asked to move trial away from Galilee city.

Judge Yitzhak Cohen of Nazareth (photo credit: Courtesy)
Judge Yitzhak Cohen of Nazareth
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Wednesday that he will be indicting former Nazareth District Court President Yitzhak Cohen for indecent assault and sexual harassment.
Mandelblit did not order the state to file its indictment yet because the state is first asking for the trial to be moved from the Nazareth District Court to another district.
Cohen will be accused of sexually assaulting and harassing one of the Nazareth court employees while on court grounds, making him one of the most senior judges ever to be indicted His place of residence and the occurrence of the alleged crimes in the courthouse would normally lead to the trial taking place in the same Nazareth court in which he was once the chief judge.
However, to avoid any cloud of impropriety, the state is asking the Supreme Court that the trial not be held in either Nazareth or Haifa.
In Nazareth, the judges could have a conflict of interest, with some having worked under him and some having testified against him as part of the criminal investigation.
In Haifa, he is allegedly too well-known, such that the state asked the Supreme Court to move the trial to one of the other four district courts: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Lod or Beersheba.
Mandelblit approved the indictment based on the recommendation of State Attorney Shai Nitzan after rejecting Cohen’s narrative at a special pre-indictment hearing – which only high public officials receive.
The police recommended indicting Cohen in November 2014 leading to his resignation only a few months after the initial accusations became public in September 2014.
Until his resignation, Cohen was considered a possible candidate for a position on the Supreme Court, with district court presidents being the most senior judicial officials below the Supreme Court.
Cohen has denied the accusations throughout.
The original publicly reported claims against him were that he had sexually harassed family relatives while they were still minors.
It was unclear on Wednesday whether those charges were part of the indictment that is soon to be filed or whether they were dropped.
At the time the story broke, it created a public crisis leading then-justice minister Tzipi Livni and then-Supreme Court president Asher D. Grunis to hold special emergency meetings and to coordinate actions to reassure the public.