Man convicted of aiding in yeshiva student's murder

Ohayon's body was never found; prosecution asks court to impose 14-year prison sentence on Amiel - he won't be sentenced until 2012.

Court gavel justice judge legal law 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Court gavel justice judge legal law 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
In an unusual ruling on Monday, the Tel Aviv District Court convicted a 29-year-old Tel Aviv resident of aiding and abetting the 2008 murder of yeshiva student Avi Ohayon, even though Ohayon’s body has never been found.
In Monday’s ruling, which took place at a closed court session, judges Daphna Avnieli, Sarah Dotan and Shaul Shohet convicted Menahem “Manny” Amiel under a plea bargain that his defense team struck with state prosecutors.
According to the terms of the plea bargain, the prosecution agreed to drop the original charge of murder in return for Amiel’s admitting the lesser charge of aiding and abetting the murder.
The prosecution asked the court to impose a 14-year prison sentence on Amiel. However, he will not be sentenced until early 2012.
Ohayon, an Ofakim resident, was reported missing in 2008. It was not until several months after his disappearance that police began to suspect that he had been murdered. Police began to investigate Amiel when they uncovered evidence that he and Ohayon had been embroiled in a financial dispute.
In October 2008, when police began investigating him, Amiel fled to the US. However, in July 2010, the US authorities deported him back to Israel, where police immediately arrested him and remanded him in custody. A month later, the State Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against him, charging him with Ohayon’s murder – even though police had not managed to locate the victim’s body.
After filing the indictment, the prosecutors announced that the evidential basis for the indictment was a “chain of circumstantial evidence” around the case that led them to conclude that Amiel had willfully caused Ohayon’s death.
According to that original indictment, on September 24, Amiel allegedly met Ohayon somewhere in Tel Aviv, killed him there and then buried his body in an unknown location. For 10 days afterward, Amiel allegedly used the victim’s credit card to buy goods worth over NIS 50,000.
Despite the lack of a body, the prosecution said that all the evidence it had uncovered led it to conclude that Ohayon must have been killed. Witnesses last saw him on September 24, 2008, and after his disappearance, his family testified to police that up until that date, he had always been in daily contact with them and had not told any of his close relatives or contacts that he intended to run away.
The police investigation also revealed that Ohayon had led a double life – studying in yeshiva, but also running an escort service and credit businesses.
Under the terms of the plea bargain, the indictment was amended to charge Amiel with assisting in Ohayon’s murder.
During Monday’s hearing, prosecuting attorney Oshra Gez-Eisenstein asked the panel of judges to impose a 14-year prison sentence on Amiel, as well as a compensation payment. The prosecution also asked that the court confiscate his driver’s license in connection with a separate criminal conviction of hitand- run driving.
However, the prosecution asked the court to delay the sentencing, because although prosecutors had informed Ohayon’s family about the plea bargain, his parents still hoped their son was alive.
In order to give the family time to come to terms with Amiel’s admitting to aiding and abetting Ohayon’s death, Dotan ruled that the court would hold the next stage of the trial, the sentencing arguments hearing, on February 6, 2012.