'Court manslaughter sentence too lenient'

8-year term for 16-year-old who stabbed Philip Geller not enough to deter growing teenage knife crime trend, state argues.

justice court gavel ruling law 370 (photo credit: Thinkstock)
justice court gavel ruling law 370
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
The State Attorney’s Office filed a Supreme Court appeal on Thursday against what it argues is a too-lenient sentence issued to the 16-year-old boy convicted of killing fellow teen Philip Geller in Beersheba.
The defendant, who cannot be named because he is a minor, was sentenced to eight years in prison by the Beersheba District Juvenile Court earlier this year, after agreeing to plead guilty to manslaughter charges in January.
As the defendant is a minor, the plea bargain does not include any deal regarding punishment. Instead, that was determined by the court in light of a probation service report.
The defendant was arrested after fatally stabbing Geller, 15, with a 20-centimeter kitchen knife during a fight on June 3 last year.
The Beersheba police confirmed that the teenagers had been drinking alcohol, which they said played a role in the incident.
The Southern District Attorney’s Office originally considered pressing murder charges against the 16-year-old, but filed a manslaughter charge after deciding that there was no unequivocal evidence that Geller’s killing was premeditated, a prerequisite determination for a murder conviction.
In addition to the eight-year prison term, the district court also handed down a two-year probation regarding manslaughter or another violent felony, and a 10-month probation regarding violent misdemeanors including possession of a knife. The defendant was also ordered to pay Geller’s family NIS 40,000.
In the appeal, state prosecutors argued that the penalty the court imposed on the killer reflects neither the severity of the crimes for which he was convicted nor the value of human life.
The punishment also does not deter the defendant, and other minors, from using knives to resolve disputes, the state argued.
In the Geller case, the prosecution contended, the defendant obtained a knife in advance of the encounter and used it “in the most deliberate and violent way, which was expressed, among other things, by thrusting [the knife] deep into his victim’s body.”
The prosecution asked the Supreme Court to impose a far harsher sentence, and added that the district court had erred in giving so much weight to the defendant’s age, particularly in the light of worsening youth violence statistics.
According to the indictment, Geller was at a party at the defendant’s home when the two started a fist fight. The fight broke up and the defendant went home, but Geller and several other youths soon returned to the yard outside the defendant’s house carrying a large rock.
The defendant threatened to stab Geller with a knife if he did not move from the yard, the indictment charged. Geller told the defendant to put the knife down “if he were a man,” put down the rock he carried and asked to continue fighting without weapons.
However, some moments later, Geller threw the rock at the defendant’s head, causing injury, according to the indictment. The defendant then stabbed Geller in the groin with such force that the knife’s handle broke off.
The defendant fled, while Geller was rushed to the Soroka University Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery and died.