'Jewish Terrorist' sentenced to life for murder

Tytell given two life sentences, additional 30 years for murder of two Palestinians, other assorted crimes.

jack tytel 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
jack tytel 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Jerusalem District Court sentenced “Jewish terrorist” Jack Tytell on Tuesday to two life sentences and an additional 30 years in prison for the murder of two Palestinians and an assortment of other crimes.
Just before the sentence was handed down, Tytell said he had no regrets and was proud of what he had done.
Although he was only formally sentenced on Tuesday, he was convicted on January 16.
Despite his claim that an “angel” had controlled him, the court, explaining its verdict, found that Tytell was not insane and was thus “responsible for his actions,” which paved the way for Tuesday’s double life sentence.
The court also ordered him to pay NIS 180,000 to the family of each murder victim and NIS 150,000 to each attempted murder victim.
In its ruling, the court stated, “Our roots command: ‘Do not kill’ – but the accused shut his ears and his eyes, killed and tried to kill in cold blood... there was no foreseeable threat of a weapon or anything to fear from them [the victims].”
The state prosecutor for the case, Sagi Ophir, said he hoped the ruling would “send a message” that would “efficiently deter anyone who will perpetrate terror or participate or aid in terror.”
Tytell’s lawyer, Asher Ohayon, told The Jerusalem Post that they intended “100 percent” to appeal to the Supreme Court – “not 60%, not 70%” – and that they intended to appeal “both the conviction and the sentence.”
Last May, the court accepted an unusual plea bargain between the district attorney and lawyers representing Tytell, and determined that the defendant had murdered two Palestinians and committed other violent crimes from 1997-2008.
Judges Zvi Segal, Moshe Hacohen and Moshe Yair Drori said the court had determined that Tytell had committed the acts attributed to him in an amended indictment.
That indictment includes 10 of the original 14 charges against the defendant – including two murders and two attempted murders – as the prosecution agreed to remove charges relating to attempted attacks that authorities succeeded in foiling, as well as general language describing Tytell’s hatred for those who disagreed with or were different from him as the motivating factor behind his crimes.
The court did not formally convict Tytell until it had carefully reviewed whether he could be held criminally responsible for his offenses.
Although he agreed to confess to the charges, Tytell refused to physically plead guilty in court when he was convicted, because he claimed he did not recognize the court’s authority.
Instead, in a highly unusual procedure that required special court approval, Ohayon – with Tytell present in the courtroom but refusing to take part – submitted an admission to the charges in the amended indictment on his client’s behalf.
Courts normally require that defendants confessing to crimes do so in-person in order to safeguard their rights and ensure that they have not been coerced into admission or confused about any element of their confession.
The Florida-born Tytell, 39, was originally indicted in 2009.
He is charged with the 1997 murder of Palestinian taxi driver Samir Balbisi, who was found shot dead in his cab.
According to the indictment, in around May 1997, when Tytell was still in the US, he decided to murder Palestinians and came to Israel for that purpose, smuggling a gun into the country by hiding it in a VCR.
He spent his first weeks in Israel with friends in Jerusalem.
He managed to acquire bullets for his smuggled gun, and began seeking out a suitable victim.
The indictment states that he chose to murder an Arab taxi driver because he thought he could ask the driver first to drive him to a suitable spot.
On June 8, 1997, he went to the Arab taxi stand at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, the indictment says, where he hired Balbisi and asked him to drive him to a hotel. After driving for a while, Tytell told Balbisi to stop and wait, then proceeded to shoot the Palestinian man in the head at point-blank range.
The indictment also charges Tytell with the murder of a second Palestinian man, Beduin shepherd Isaa Mousa’af Mahamada, who was shot dead near the West Bank settlement of Carmel, near Hebron, in August 1997.
In 2000, Tytell made aliya and lived in Shvut Rahel, a West Bank settlement north of Jerusalem, where he married and had four children. That year, police arrested him on suspicion of carrying out both of the 1997 murders, but later released him due to lack of evidence.
In March 2008, according to the indictment, he attempted to murder 15-year-old Amiel Ortiz, a Messianic Jewish teen from Ariel.
Tytell sent a bomb in a Purim gift basket to Ortiz’s home, which exploded when the youth opened it.
Other charges include planting homemade explosives in September 2008 at the home of Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell, a leftwing scholar from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Tytell also attempted to murder a resident of the Beit Jamal monastery near Beit Shemesh because he believed its inhabitants were missionaries who tried to convert Jewish children.
He attacked a police station in 2006 during a gay pride parade.
Following his arrest in 2009, he was remanded in custody in a secure psychiatric facility, and though an initial psychiatric assessment in 2010 deemed him unfit to stand trial, later tests showed that he was able to face prosecution.
Tytell’s lawyers had previously argued that their client had not known right from wrong when he committed the acts, and therefore the court could not impose a prison term.
There were even arguments that an “angel” had controlled his actions, and at least one expert said that Tytell was insane. But the prosecution successfully argued that Tytell was responsible for his actions when committing the crimes.
The court said that it accepted another expert opinion that regardless of whether Tytell may have had episodes of insanity during his trial and imprisonment, if he had been insane years earlier when he committed the crimes, he would have deteriorated to a far worse state in the subsequent years.
Based on the above and the rational manner in which Tytell gave statements to police when arrested, the court agreed with the expert that any episodes of insanity came after the crimes and during imprisonment.
On December 7, the court arrived at an interim conclusion that Tytell was indeed sane and criminally responsible, a development that paved the way for January’s conviction and Tuesday’s sentencing.