Analysis: Zohar punches holes in Talansky's testimony - but how big are the holes?

Zohar's real aim was to undermine Talansky's credibility to the point where nothing the key witness said would be believed.

Talansky court 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Talansky court 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The second day of attorney Eli Zohar cross-examination of Morris Talansky on Friday established one important fact: Talansky often sounds absolutely certain of the facts he states, but sometimes he gets things very wrong. This was particularly the case regarding the question of the checks that Talansky collected for Olmert's second campaign for mayor of Jerusalem in 1998. He told Zohar without a moment's hesitation that he raised this money in a special, one-time canvass that took place at a business office where some of his friends and acquaintances worked. But during one of his interrogations, he told the police with the same degree of certainty that he had collected the checks at one or more of the parlor meetings he arranged or attended to raise money for Olmert's campaign. Talansky has insisted all along that Olmert instructed him to collect all donations - including his own - in cash so that Olmert would be able to use all of it for his campaign. Therefore, according to Talansky, the donations he collected at the parlor meetings were always in cash. The checks that he collected were donated in a completely different context than the parlor meetings, and only on one occasion at the specific request of Olmert's aide, Uri Messer. There is not much significance in the difference in substance of the two versions. Even if Talansky collected checks at the parlor meetings, it does not necessarily mean that the cash donations were declared. Furthermore, it is unlikely that - except for that one occasion - Talansky's donors gave Olmert checks because had they done so, Olmert's campaign managers would have to declare them. But Talansky did not recognize the names of any of the donors he collected money from at the parlor evenings except for those who gave the checks on that one, allegedly exceptional, occasion. But Zohar did not really care "Talansky's donors" donated checks to Olmert's campaign at the parlor evenings. His real aim was to undermine Talansky's credibility to the point where nothing the key witness said would be believed, or, at least, that the facts he provided could not serve as a basis for proving with a reasonable degree of certainty that Olmert had committed crimes. Without crossing the threshold of a reasonable degree of certainty, the court could not convict Olmert. Talansky himself has said over and over again that he does not remember all the details of the events that occurred between 1993 and 2003, but that the overall events he described were true. The judges will have to decide whether the success Zohar enjoyed on Friday by proving that not everything Talansky has said, either in court or to the police, is true casts enough doubt on his testimony as to render it worthless to the prosecution. Whatever conclusion the judges reach, it must be kept in mind that the state has collected testimony from other witnesses as well. Talansky's overall thesis will either be supported or contradicted by other testimony. It will not have to stand alone. But let's not jump the gun. Talansky's cross- examination is part of a pre-trial procedure. The state has not yet decided whether to even indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and its decision will not depend solely on Talansky's performance against Zohar.