Analysis: It stinks, but is it criminal?

Legal analyst likens Talansky testimony to half-time in soccer game, says the ball now in Olmert's court.

talnsky court 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
talnsky court 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Potent and damaging though Morris Talansky's "preliminary testimony" Tuesday on his numerous cash transfers to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may sound, legal analysts stressed that conduct and behavior that stinks isn't necessarily criminal. Israel Radio's legal analyst Moshe Negbi, for instance, likened Talansky's testimony in Jerusalem District Court at this stage to the half-time point in a soccer game, noting that the prime minister's lawyers were not cross-examining the central witness at this stage. When the time came for cross-examination, said Negbi, Olmert's defense team would hope to destroy the witness's credibility, or at the very least to extract answers that would constitute a plausible and legal explanation for the payments. Negbi stressed that accepting cash payments was not in and of itself a crime, but referred to previous rulings under which the burden of proof falls on the defendant to explain payments which plainly have not been made purely out of friendship. In the light of the testimony Talansky was supplying on Tuesday, said Negbi, it was clear why Olmert's defense team had tried so hard to prevent the witness's appearance at this stage, including the "desperate" and unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court to block the move. In contrast to statements he might have made under police investigation, said Negbi, Talansky was now "all but locked" into the evidence he had detailed before the court.