Man accused of stalking prosecutor back in custody

J'lem court orders defendant in fraud case be returned to custody after paper containing information on prosecutor found on him.

Gavel from Reuters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)
Gavel from Reuters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)
The state and Yaakov Berger battled on Thursday before the Supreme Court in Berger’s appeal over his return to detention from house arrest, following the finding that he had collected large amounts of personal information about the prosecutor litigating his case.
Berger, who is ultra-Orthodox, is accused of a massive fraud scheme in which he falsified financial reports and applications for receiving funding for a system of haredi schools, in order to take millions of shekels for himself.
Berger was initially arrested for questioning but was released on strict house arrest terms, including constant supervision from court-appointed supervisors. He has been living in a Migdal Ha’emek yeshiva – instead of his family home – with an electronic tracker chained to his legs since June 19.
On October 14, having asked special permission to travel to Tel Aviv to meet with his lawyers, Berger went to Tel Aviv along with his supervisor.
Berger did meet with his lawyer but left the office at the end of the meeting without telling his supervisor, who had dropped him off there, and went to a Tel Aviv restaurant with his wife.
Traveling without his supervisor and going anywhere other than his lawyer’s office were both violations of his conditions of house arrest.
Berger was located in the restaurant and arrested.
But what was much more worrying to the Jerusalem District Court that ordered Berger returned to police custody until the end of the proceedings was a piece of paper containing information Berger had collected about the prosecutor litigating his case, which was found while searching him.
The paper included the prosecutor’s name, her husband’s name, how many children they have and their home telephone number and address.
It also included the prosecutor and her husband’s work addresses, her date of birth, where she received her degrees and her graduation dates.
Next, the paper listed her parents’ names as well as the names of some other prosecutors who had worked with her in the past.
The lower court found that the violations, plus the disturbing attempt to seemingly trace, stalk or at the very least collect an unusual amount of information about the prosecutor, showed that Berger – who also has British citizenship – had an erratic personality that made him a flight risk.
Berger’s attorneys argued before the Supreme Court that the incident was an innocent misunderstanding.
They said that there was nothing wrong with having collected information and that the lower court had blown things out of proportion, letting its imagination run away with itself.
Berger’s attorneys explained that the trip to the restaurant was one violation in four months of house arrest, adding that Berger was with his wife – who is listed as one of his possible supervisors.
The state hit back alleging that Berger was twisting the facts, which spoke for themselves and were worrying enough to justify keeping him in police custody for the remainder of the case.
The Supreme Court’s questions suggested that it might be open to making Berger’s house arrest conditions stricter, to solve what it saw primarily as a crisis of “keeping faith” with the police and the state.
However, it was unclear that such stricter conditions were possible without keeping Berger in police custody.