Talansky contradicts earlier testimony

talansky  smiles 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
talansky smiles 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's lawyer, Eli Zohar, continued on Sunday to uncover mistakes, contradictions and even fabrications in the information key prosecution witness Morris Talansky gave police during his interrogation and told the court in his first day of pre-trial testimony on May 27. Talansky took the stand for the third day of his five-day cross-examination by a battery of Olmert lawyers, headed by Zohar, who questioned him for more than seven hours. Unlike the first two days of testimony, Talansky frequently asked for short breaks to rest. He was also observing the fast of the 17th of Tamuz. Zohar focused on two cash payments that Talansky had given - or in one of the cases allegedly loaned - to Olmert. The first was a donation of $72,500 that Talansky gave Olmert on December 24, 2003. The second was a loan of $25,000 that Talansky allegedly gave Olmert for a family trip by the then-industry, trade and labor minister to Italy and Greece in September and October 2004. Zohar started off by asking Talansky to confirm that when police interrogators first asked him whether he had donated $72,500 to Olmert's Likud primary campaign for the 2003 general election, he had strongly denied it, saying he had never given such a large sum of money to Olmert. Zohar: I will read out to you what you told the interrogators. You said, "I don't remember exactly how much money I gave, but I never gave such a [large] sum at one time." Is that correct? Talansky [hesitates]: I don't remember all that you are reading. But the reply was true. I told you that the atmosphere [during the police interrogations] was one of confusion and total disengagement from reality. [I had] a feeling of utter darkness. Indeed, this was Talansky's explanation for all the mistakes and contradictions he had made during his police interrogation. Later in his testimony, Talansky said that in watching video clips that Zohar showed the court of the police interrogations, he felt the same agitation that he had felt during the questioning. "The police tried to confuse me," he told the court. In early police interrogation, Talansky became confused between the money he had given Olmert to cover the campaign debts and the money he allegedly loaned him for the trip to Italy and Greece. On December 23, 2003, Talansky withdrew $68,000 from his Israeli bank account. At first, he thought he had used this money to lend Olmert anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000 for his family vacation. He then had to explain what he did with the rest of the money. At first, he told police he had taken $30,000 in cash back to the US and recalled that he had had to declare it at US customs. Later, he gave another version in which he had given $30,000 to Olmert as a loan and most of the rest to his children living in Israel. He said he had taken "$2,000 or $3,000 - maybe even less," back to the US. In the end, it turned out that neither story was correct. All of the $68,000 that Talansky had withdrawn had gone to the campaign contribution, which he had given to Olmert's aide Shula Zaken the following day. Zohar asked Talansky how he could have said at one point that he had declared $30,000 that he was allegedly bringing into the US when he had, in fact, not brought any such sum back. "Where did the story of the declaration come from?" asked Zohar. "It's a kind of imagination on your part." Talansky replied: "The whole confusion and fear surrounding the interrogation created all kinds of plays on my imagination." "Even to the point of saying things that weren't true," added Zohar. Zohar also played segments of videos involving the loan that Talansky had allegedly given to Olmert for his trip to Italy and Greece. At the beginning of his interrogation, Talansky had been sure that Olmert had gone on vacation over the Pessah holiday. In fact, he remembered reprimanding Olmert for leaving the country during what he regarded as a particularly important holiday in the Jewish calendar. However, it turned out that Olmert had gone to Italy and Greece in September. Talansky said the holiday must have been Hanukka, and later changed it to Succot. He was clearly confused even now. He told the court he still thought the holiday was Pessah. Talansky also testified that he had withdrawn $25,000 in cash from his Israeli bank, the Bank of Jerusalem, to cover Olmert's vacation. But there was no record of such a withdrawal in Talansky's bank statement during that period. At the beginning of the hearing, State Attorney Moshe Lador blasted Olmert's lawyers for telling journalists on Friday that they had destroyed Talansky's testimony on behalf of the prosecution. He also attacked them for using inappropriate language toward the witness, including Zohar's comment to Talansky on Friday; "I pity you." Lador said the lawyers were deliberately trying to demoralize Talansky in order to influence his testimony. But the lawyers brushed the accusation aside. At the end of the hearing, Zohar told reporters that "everyone could hear the degree of confusion, the amount of contradictions, the amount of mistakes and vagueness in Talansky's testimony. One thing emerged from it: This is not a witness who can support an indictment or a pre-trial testimony, because of the simple fact that he is an elderly man, his memory betrays him, and he was afraid [of the police.]" All of this added up to an unclear, incoherent, strange, problematic and incorrect testimony." Lador refused to comment on the hearing but urged reporters not to take the assessments of Olmert's lawyers at face value. "The testimony is not yet over," he said. "The impressions, spins and analyses while the procedure is still going on do not come from the prosecution. I understand you are fed many details by the other side during all the recesses in this hearing."