Shachar Greenspan plea bargain ‘far too lenient’

Teenage girl became quadriplegic after drunk driver slammed into her.

Shahar Greenspan 370 (photo credit: Channel 2)
Shahar Greenspan 370
(photo credit: Channel 2)
The State Attorney’s Office admitted on Thursday that prosecutors had made a mistake in striking a too-lenient plea bargain with the drunk driver who struck 14-year-old Shachar Greenspan and left her paralyzed, but that it was in the public interest to maintain the plea bargain system.
The admission came in a formal written response to a High Court of Justice petition that Greenspan’s parents filed in January against what they said was an “unreasonable” plea bargain between the police’s legal department and Mark Patrick, the drunk driver.
In November 2009, Patrick swerved his car onto a Netanya sidewalk and hit then-12-year-old Greenspan as she stood with a girlfriend.
Her friend was lightly injured, but Greenspan suffered severe head trauma, and doctors doubted she would live. She survived, but is a quadriplegic who can only communicate via eye movement.
In a March 2011 ruling that outraged Greenspan’s family and road safety groups, Petah Tikva Traffic Court Judge Tal Ostfeld- Navy accepted a plea bargain Patrick’s defense team struck with the police, sentencing him to six months’ community service and a fine of NIS 1,000, and revoking his driver’s license for six years.
In their High Court petition, Greenspan’s parents, Israel and Nechama, say the plea bargain is “unreasonable, disproportionate, contrary to public interest and against all sense of natural justice.”
“In these very moments, when the young girl is fighting every day to make even minimal physical actions, to move, to blink her eye, in order to communicate, the defendant is completely free and has moved on with his life as if nothing ever happened,” the petition reads.
In its response to the court on Thursday, the State Attorney’s Office and the attorney- general said the plea bargain had been “erroneous” and that his punishment was “far too lenient.”
The punishment was “not suitable for the acts to which he pleaded guilty and in relation to their harsh consequences,” the State Attorney’s Office said.
It also said that an audit of the incident had found “deficiencies” in the police’s handling of the case’s prosecution, but noted that this did not mean the High Court should rule in favor of the petition.
The State Attorney’s Office additionally noted that since that plea bargain, it had refreshed its guidelines to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future.
However, it said in its response that it was not possible to revoke the plea bargain, since “the ruling has been made and it is no longer possible to appeal.”
Greenspan’s parents say police did not inform them of the plea bargain, despite requests that they be kept updated. The plea bargain was presented to the court without their knowledge, they allege.
“The plea bargain was ‘achieved’ contrary to proper administrative procedures,” they argue in the petition, adding that they believe there is a “real suspicion about the involvement of extraneous considerations.”
In its response, however, the State Attorney’s Office added that the public’s interest was in maintaining the system of plea bargains, and therefore asked the court to reject the petition.
Nonetheless, the State Attorney’s Office said the respondents had learned lessons from the mistakes made in the Greenspan case, and was implementing them.
“In the final analysis, the respondents wish to express their sorrow for the pain caused to the petitioners, and to give them strength in coping with the injuries caused to Shachar,” it said.