Omri Sharon will appeal the nine-month jail sentence and NIS 300,000 fine handed down Tuesday by Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court Judge Edna Bankenstein, his lawyer said after the hearing.
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"This is a severe and exceptional punishment that deviates extremely from the judicial precedents up until now," Navit Negev told reporters. "We intend to appeal against the sentence to the Tel Aviv District Court."
In her strongly worded verdict, Bankenstein wrote: "In recent times, we repeatedly hear the words, 'the political swamp.' The court's role in draining the swamp is to appropriately punish those who commit crimes in the midst of a political procedure and contaminate it. And let those who commit crimes like the ones in this affair, attempt to commit them or help others commit them, be aware that the law will come down hard, not easy, on them."
According to Bankenstein, the extra degree of severity in the case was "the fact that Sharon concealed his goal and the way he did it. He didn't leave anything to chance, everything was carefully planned. He prepared a detailed plan of what he wanted to do and how to conceal his actions from those he worked with.
"In his actions, he endangered the outcome of the elections - that is, he endangered the democratic process from which the democratic system derives its strength and its very existence."
The judge wrote that Sharon was well aware of the Political Parties Law, which imposed limits on the amount of money that a primary candidate could spend on his campaign.
"Had he not been [aware], he would not have established straw companies to funnel the money from the contributions," Bankenstein wrote. "From this we learn that the law was so clear to him, that in order to achieve his ends he devised sophisticated ways to bypass the law that stood in his way and allow him to take the measures he needed to help him attain his goal."
By raising money illegally, the judge wrote, Sharon had violated the principle of equality in democracy.
In doing so, he also opened himself up to the possibility of blackmail by the very people who gave him the illegal funds.
Bankenstein rejected the defense's argument that no one had ever been punished for violating the laws governing campaign contributions. If that was true, she wrote, then it was time to start enforcing them to deter others from doing the same thing.
"The frequency with which crimes like Sharon's are committed arouses a strong sense of despair among the public at large," the judge wrote. "These crimes erode the public's confidence in the way its elected representatives are chosen and the purity of their actions after they are elected. This sullies the public climate."
Bankenstein took Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's
illness into consideration in her ruling, stating that Omri Sharon's jail sentence would not begin until six months from the day the sentence was handed down.