Adelson death could tank Case 2000 against PM, indirectly harm Case 4000

Any loss in Case 2000 could also affect Case 4000, since part of the strength of the two cases is to show a pattern.

Sheldon Adelson speaks during an inteview (photo credit: REUTERS/TYRONE SIU)
Sheldon Adelson speaks during an inteview
(photo credit: REUTERS/TYRONE SIU)
Case 2000, the Yediot Aharonot-Israel Hayom Affair, was always the weakest of the three cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But with the death of Israel Hayom owner, billionaire tycoon Sheldon Adelson, the case just got a whole lot weaker.
The reason for this is that Adelson’s testimony to police played an important role in convincing Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to indict Netanyahu by negating his alibi.
Netanyahu was recorded negotiating with Yediot Aharonot owner Arnon (Noni) Mozes about weakening Israel Hayom in exchange for Mozes shifting coverage of Netanyahu at Yediot from negative to positive.
Netanyahu’s alibi was that the negotiation was fake, and that he was playing a game of complex chess, of extortion and counter-extortion with Mozes.
As the ploy never came to fruition, it could be hard to prove that Netanyahu had any criminal intent, and because of this explanation, Mandelblit was initially considering closing the case.
Even when he did decide, Mandelblit overruled then-state attorney Shai Nitzan and the prosecution team lead lawyer Liat Ben-Ari in seeking an indictment against Netanyahu only for breach of trust but not for bribery. Mandelblit nevertheless indicted Mozes for bribery.
How do you charge one side with offering bribery, but not the other side with receiving it?
It happens, but it is messy, especially when, unlike Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair, the deal never happened.
Courts still have extreme difficulty with defining breach of trust. Is it when a defendant engages in actions that violate conflict of interest principles, hiding actions from authorities, failing to stop illegal actions.
Once Mandelblit dropped the bribery charge, he had already hinted to the court and to the defense that the case was far from watertight. To secure any conviction, the prosecution would need to exploit the shock value of the recordings of Netanyahu and Mozes and to disprove the prime minister’s alibi.
The prosecution says Netanyahu broke the law when he responded to Mozes’s offer on December 4, 2014, by describing how he would pass the law.
After the fifth of six meetings with Mozes, according to Adelson’s statements to police, Netanyahu met with him and asked for his help to carry out what he had promised Mozes. This was what sold Mandelblit, and it could have dealt a body blow to Netanyahu.
A huge fan of Netanyahu, Adelson had no incentive to lie to hurt the prime minister, and yet he confirmed that Netanyahu followed through with concrete actions to realize the scheme with Mozes. Adelson was reportedly furious with Netanyahu over the incident.
Now, Adelson will never testify in court, and the defense will never have a chance to cross-examine him, and this is why Case 2000 got weaker. But the question is: how much weaker?
In the trials of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, part of the defense’s effective attack, which reduced large portions of jail time, was the fact that a key witness for the prosecution, Shmuel Dechner, died before they could cross-examine him.
Because of this, the defense said that much of Dechner’s testimony must be  disqualified.
It argued that it was unfair to convict Olmert on the basis of a witness who was never cross-examined.
How might the prosecution overcome this?
First, sometimes courts allow testimony to police, even without cross-examination, where a witness has died and there is no other way to obtain the evidence. Courts tend to ascribe less weight to this kind of evidence, but it can still be admissible.
Second, Case 2000 does not rest almost solely on Adelson’s statements. There are recordings that still exist at the heart of the case. There are also other witnesses who can testify about other concrete actions that Netanyahu made which might disprove his alibi.
Mandelblit may have been convinced by seeing Adelson’s testimony, but Adelson was already quite sick when Mandelblit decided on a final indictment – meaning the attorney-general probably knew that the chances of him testifying were not high.
Any loss in Case 2000 could also affect Case 4000, since part of the strength of the two cases is to show a pattern.
Regardless of the final verdict, losing Adelson as a witness will resonate profoundly on the progression of the trial.