Ehud Olmert on Monday will arrive at Ma’asiyahu Prison in Ramle at 10 a.m. and become the first prime minister in the history of the state to serve time in prison.
His sentence is set to run for at least 18 months, but depending on possible appeals by Olmert and by the state, could run as long as 27 months.
Olmert will stay in a special wing with extra security outside his cell at all times – though the Prisons Service says it is taking over his security from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) – and only inmates who have gone through a strict screening process will live in his wing.
Some of the approved inmates include other defendants from the Holyland real estate corruption case that is responsible for 18 months, or the lion’s share, of his jail time.
The former prime minister’s wing will also have a separate area for eating, medical and other activities from the majority of the inmates.
Yet other than these measures designed to protect Olmert physically and to protect state secrets, by preventing him from being in a position where other inmates could extort information from him, the Prisons Service has said he will mostly be treated like other prisoners.
That means he is allowed seven books at a time, a television with limited channels, a DVD player, a pillow from home and a few other basic amenities, but will face many of the heavy restrictions of prisoner life.
He enters prison as a result of his Holyland conviction for bribery from March 2014; his 18-month sentence was reduced from an original sentence of six years by the Supreme Court in December.
That conviction related to a request by Olmert to businessman and real estate broker Shmuel Duchner for NIS 60,000 for his benefit through his confidantes Shula Zaken and Uri Messer.
At the same time, by a 4-1 vote, the Supreme Court tossed out Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen’s conviction of Olmert on a more serious charge for Olmert having allegedly asked that Duchner give NIS 500,000 to his brother, Yossi Olmert.
The Holyland trial involved 16 defendants, 13 of who were convicted of participating in the biggest bribery scheme in the state’s history, including eight (including Olmert) sentenced by the Supreme Court.
The other seven were: former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner, former Jerusalem chief engineer Uri Shitrit, former Jerusalem deputy mayor Eli Simhayof, Holyland Complex owner Hillel Cherney, Holyland Park founder Avigdor Kellner and bribery middleman Meir Rabin.
Olmert’s former top aide Zaken was sentenced separately to 11 months in prison in a plea bargain deal where she turned state’s witness against Olmert in the Talansky retrial case. She has already served her time and been released.
Most of the defendants were powerful Jerusalem public servants who took bribes to smooth over legal and zoning obstacles for the Holyland real estate project in south Jerusalem.
Whether Olmert serves 18 months or 27 months depends on two other sentences, a one-month sentence handed down last week by Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Avital Chen and an eight-month sentence handed down in by the Jerusalem District Court in the Talansky Affair retrial in May.
Chen’s one-month sentence shocked the legal establishment last week, when he tossed out a key part of the prosecution’s plea bargain with former prime minister Olmert and sentenced him to the additional jail time in the secret tapes saga. In contrast, the prosecution had supported a six-month sentence for Olmert where the six month ran concurrently with the 18 month Holyland sentence, so that he actually would still only serve 18 months.
Olmert can still appeal the extra month, but his lawyers were cagey about whether they would start a new legal fight over a mere 30 days added on to 18 months.
He has appealed the eight-month sentence in the Talansky Affair retrial.
The Talansky case consisted of Olmert illegally receiving, using and concealing at least $153,950 in cash in envelopes from New York businessman Morris Talansky between 1993 and 2002.
Still in the works also is the state’s appeal of other cases in which Olmert has been acquitted, such as the Rishon Tours Affair.
In the case of Rishon Tours, Olmert had been accused of double-billing organizations for reimbursements for international flights, and the state has appealed the verdict that found him innocent of these charges.
The Talansky Affair retrial came out of the state’s appeal of Olmert’s July 2012 acquittal in the original trial to the Supreme Court, with the Supreme Court sending the case back to the district court for a retrial in summer 2014.
In the more minor Investment Center Affair, Olmert was convicted of granting of favors in his capacity as a minister to his confidante Messer, despite a conflict of interest.
Olmert received a sentence of six months’ community service, which the state has also appealed.
A Supreme Court order for a retrial of these cases came after recordings emerged last year suggesting Olmert may have been illegally plotting with Zaken, his former aide of 30 years, regarding the handling of his original trial.
Zaken refused to testify in the first trial and perjured herself on Olmert’s behalf during the Holyland trial, without letting on about the existence of the recordings until these cases were being appealed, and she became embroiled in negotiating a separate deal with prosecutors.
Olmert admitted to telling Zaken not to testify in the first trial and to not cut a deal with the prosecution in the Holyland trial. He told her, “If I am not acquitted, no one will be acquitted.”
He also offered to arrange for her to be paid large sums of money, including having her legal fees covered.
Zaken listened to him and refused a plea bargain before taking the stand in the Holyland trial.
By Yonah Jeremy Bob
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