Pinto's plea bargain postponed by High Court

The court has ordered the state to provide further explanations of its decision to cut the deal in which it reduced the charges against Pinto.

Rabbi Pinto (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Rabbi Pinto
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the postponement of the plea bargain of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, which had been scheduled to be confirmed in court later this week.
The court has ordered the state to provide further explanations of its decision to cut the deal in which it reduced the charges against Pinto so he would testify against a former top police official, and has frozen the deal until more explanation is provided.
The decision did not terminate the plea bargain.
Expressing doubts about the state’s decision to give Pinto a more lenient sentence and to save him from a full trial, Deputy Supreme Court President Miriam Naor said, “He was grabbing them [the state] by the neck. They don’t say this, but that is what comes out, reading between the lines, and they needed to perform an investigation under bag conditions.”
On the other hand, Naor showed some understanding of the prosecution’s predicament, saying “it is clear that absolute justice is that everyone gets what the law” decrees for them, but “the question is whether there is a basis” for the court’s intervention regarding a “choice they made” that was not in ideal circumstances.
The NGO that filed the petition to block the state’s plea bargain with Pinto, the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, has also pressed the state to further investigate connections between Pinto and top police official Efrayim Bracha, who was previously investigated and cleared in the affair.
Pinto was investigated in the past for allegedly bribing police officials.
In mid-September, an indictment was filed with the Tel Aviv District Court against Pinto as part of a plea bargain for him to testify against former Lahav 433 head Asst.-Ch. (ret.) Menashe Arbiv.
Associates of Pinto allegedly gave Arbiv a series of bribes, including a discounted apartment in Tel Aviv for Arbiv’s son, assistance in attaining US visas for his immediate family and free nights in a Manhattan hotel.
Arbiv, who was the head of what is often called Israel’s FBI, resigned from his post on February 9 over the scandal, though he continues to claim his innocence and charges that Pinto is corrupt and manipulating the state.
Pinto returned to Israel in May from the US and was interrogated by the police, likely including the use of polygraph tests, as part of a final round of confirmation of whether his allegations against Arbiv were sound.
The plea bargain includes Pinto pleading guilty to a reduced indictment and the state agreeing not to ask for more than a year of prison time.
During the February negotiations for a plea bargain, the deal appeared to be falling apart over the questionable veracity of Pinto’s allegations and his demand that any indictment against him be dropped.
Pinto, well known both in Israel and the US, is a descendant of two Sephardi rabbinical dynasties and the founder of the Shuva Israel Yeshiva.
He was listed as the seventh-richest rabbi in Israel last year by Forbes Israel and has served as an adviser to a battery of the country’s elite.