Rosenstein's court no-show underlines fear of crisis in criminal justice system

Court doubts Prisons Service claim it didn't know he was due for a hearing.

Two incidents Thursday involving mafia kingpins served to reinforce the assertion made at a panel discussion a day earlier that the criminal justice system is under siege from all sides. Speakers at the Movement for Quality Government's annual conference in Jerusalem had discussed the factors leading to an erosion of faith in the system, and within 24 hours the very topics they had raised were making the headlines. The Israel Prisons Service denied allegations that jailed ecstasy overlord Ze'ev Rosenstein's absence from a scheduled court appearance Thursday was due to anything other than a bureaucratic error. Rosenstein was meant to report for a morning sentencing hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, following a plea bargain. But officers of the IPS's Nachshon Unit, which is taking over responsibility for transporting prisoners from the Israel Police, never arrived to take the man who was once No. 1 on the police's wanted list to the hearing. During a hearing on June 7, Rosenstein confessed to criminal conspiracy for planning murder attempts against brothers and reputed organized crime figures Nissim and Ya'akov Alperon. The confession in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court was part of a plea bargain arrangement in which Rosenstein will serve three years in prison - concurrent with the 12-year sentence that he is currently serving. The guilty plea refers to a 2001 incident in which Rosenstein contacted underworld figure Baruch Dadosh and two Columbian hired-guns to kill the rival crime bosses. Rosenstein believed the Alperons were trying to do the same thing to him. Rosenstein allegedly paid the Columbians their first installment of $2,000 before calling off the hit for reasons that are unclear. Prisons Service representatives said they never received an order summoning Rosenstein to court Thursday. The court said that this claim was hard to believe, considering that representatives of the Nachshon Unit were present in court with Rosenstein last week when the Thursday hearing was scheduled. Rosenstein is one of Israel's most heavily protected prisoners, and his transportation from one place to another is no simple matter, as IPS officers fear rival gangsters will go to almost any lengths to take revenge on "the Wolf." Rosenstein's hearing was rescheduled for Monday. He was not the only high-profile alleged Mafioso in the news on Thursday. Assi Abutbul made an appearance in the Jerusalem District Court on weapons-dealing charges, and in the course of the hearing, heated exchanges erupted between the gangster and Judge Channa Ben-Ami. Ben-Ami has refused to recuse herself from the case, even though she has allegedly been threatened by Abutbul. Abutbul accused her in court on Thursday of not permitting his attorneys to properly represent him. As expected, he later denied allegations that he or his friends had ever attempted to intimidate Ben-Ami. Ironically, the earlier Ben-Ami-Abutbul exchange had been a hot topic during the panel discussion, as speakers cited it as a textbook example of an attempt to strong-arm the court.