Prosecutors oppose Katsav request for hearing

State attorney’s office: New videotape and photographic evidence won’t overturn Supreme Court rape verdict.

Moshe Katsav walking into court 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Moshe Katsav walking into court 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
The state attorney’s office said on Sunday there were no grounds for the court to hold a further appeal hearing on former president Moshe Katsav’s rape conviction.
The statement came in a formal written response filed with the Supreme Court.
The state attorney’s office said two new pieces of evidence the former president’s lawyers requested to bring before the court will not be enough to overturn the guilty verdict, because they do not prove Katsav did not commit the two acts of rape for which he has been convicted.
The former president is serving a seven-year prison sentence after being unanimously convicted in the Tel Aviv District Court in 2010 of two counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, an indecent act using force and obstruction of justice.
In November 2011, after the Supreme Court rejected Katsav’s appeal against his conviction and sentence, his defense team asked for extra time to file a request for a further appeal hearing, saying that after studying the ruling, they believed there were grounds for further discussion.
Those grounds, Katsav’s legal team argued, were legal difficulties with the conviction, including the standard of evidence in what was a testimony-based conviction in which the decisive factor had been something other than physical evidence or witness corroboration.
In February, Katsav’s newly appointed defense lawyer, Yoram Sheftel, asked the court for permission to file two pieces of further evidence to be presented in an additional hearing, which he said proved the former president was telling the truth regarding his whereabouts at the time Aleph from the Tourism Ministry claims Katsav raped her for the first time.
Sheftel said the additional evidence includes a video recording showing Katsav with a personal security guard from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) during an event for Persian Jews in Ramat Gan, and a photograph taken during that event that Sheftel says proves Katsav’s mother was present, as the former president testified in his trial.
However, in its response to the court, attorney Naomi Granot, for the state, argued that even if the court accepted those two pieces of new evidence, it would not be enough to change the outcome of the case.
Regarding the videotape and photograph from the event, the state said the issue of the former president’s alibi for that first rape did not rest on whether he had a security detail before the time of the rape.
The court’s rejection of Katsav’s claims regarding the rape was “based on the totality of the evidence,” the state said, including times of phone calls.
“The court found ‘time windows’ which made the rape possible, according to the evidence,” the state’s response said.
The state added that the fact Katsav was photographed with his security guard did not indicate whether security had been very tight at the event, as the former president argued, or whether Katsav himself had been closely guarded, as a Shin Bet officer testified.
The state also argued that the presence of Katsav’s mother at the event did not lead to the conclusion that he had returned her home exactly at the time relevant to the rape.
Regarding the issue of the testimony- based trial, the state said that testimony was, first and foremost, evidence and that after a court had accepted it as such it was treated as any other piece of evidence.
The state also disagreed with Katsav’s legal team’s claims that the court could have been influenced by the media, because the press had “judged” the president before he went to trial. This, Katsav’s attorneys claimed, constitutes abuse of process.
Although the state attorney’s office admitted that Katsav “was tried in a certain fashion in the media,” Granot added that “this is not sufficient for the basis of a claim of abuse of process.”
Katsav’s legal team also argued that the court’s verdict had been based on testimony from the main complainant in the case, Aleph, who said she had told people in real-time about sexual harassment and indecent assault.
The district court had found that since Aleph had talked about sexual harassment in real time with various people, she must have been telling the truth; but the former president’s lawyers argued that Aleph had never told anyone she was raped, noting that Katsav had also consistently denied having sexual intercourse with Aleph. This, they argued, cast reasonable doubt on her testimony that rape took place.