Comment: Omri's punishment is the key

There was a fair amount of criticism on Tuesday that Likud MK Omri Sharon's long-awaited trial appeared to end before it began. More than one commentator charged that "justice was being done but not being seen to be done." Certainly from a formal point of view, these criticisms are unjustified. First of all, the trial is not over. The court will still hear sentencing pleas and character testimony before making its final and crucial ruling on the punishment to be meted out. In handing down her sentence, Judge Edna Bankenstein will also summarize the main events of the case and address the nature of the crimes that Sharon committed and their gravity. There is also nothing unusual in the fact that Sharon pled guilty after reaching some sort of understanding with the State Attorney's Office. These kinds of deals are made all the time, and just as Omri Sharon does not deserve to be singled out for better treatment because of his pedigree, he does not deserve to be singled out for worse treatment. We also know that the state rejected the defense request to drop the most serious charges in the indictment, those of making false entry into the documents of a corporate body and of making a false oath. In theory, Sharon could be sentenced to five years for these crimes. Having said all this, there are still several troubling aspects about the case which will only become clear in the days to come. For while it is no secret that the prosecution and Sharon's lawyer, Dan Scheineman, have been discussing a deal for the past two months, the public still does not know all the details of the bargain that was struck. For one thing, we know that in return for Sharon's confession of guilt, the state has agreed to convert two of the charges in the indictment, including deceit and breach of trust in a corporate body, to lesser charges. But for some reason, the Justice Ministry has refused to reveal what the lesser charges will be. Even more disturbing is the question of the sentence. The prosecution says that it did not come to an agreement with the defense on the punishment Sharon will receive. His lawyer does not want his client to serve time in jail. The state has insisted that he must go to prison. But the real question is how much time will the state ask the court to give him. More to the point, is there a secret agreement between the state and the defense whereby in return for Sharon's guilty plea, the state will ask for a light sentence? There were rumors, during the first reports of the negotiations between the State Attorney's Office and Scheineman, that the state would ask for six months in jail. For many, such a sentence would be too light considering the flagrant and conscious violations of the laws that Sharon committed. The fact that he admitted his crimes is a good thing. It saves the taxpayers money, especially since Sharon's guilt was evident. The key issue in this case, given Sharon's admission of guilt, is not whether the court will hear testimony or not, but what punishment he will receive. Will his sentence, assuming the court gives him one, serve as a genuine deterrent and an appropriate punishment, or will Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz shy away from attempting to lay down the law with men of privilege as he has already done more than once in the past?