A military court on Tuesday sentenced two soldiers from an elite commando unit to jail terms for aggravated indecent assault on a female comrade, after rape allegations were significantly downgraded in a plea bargain.
First Sargent Shai Refaelov and Sargent David Swissa, both of whom hold administrative roles in the IDF’s elite Shayetet 13 commando unit, were convicted in December after a female soldier accused them of trying to forcibly have sex with her.
The original charge sheet accused the pair of rape during the March 27, 2017, incident in the northern town of Atlit. According to the indictment, they entered a military vehicle with her and tried to force themselves on her without her consent.
The rape charge was eventually dropped following negotiations between lawyers for the two soldiers and the victim, in a plea bargain that saw the pair admit to aggravated indecent assault.
A lawyers for the two said at the time that the plea bargain proved the original charge sheet was “far from the truth” and that there were “many inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s testimony.”
A military court in Haifa on Tuesday sentenced Refaelov to nine months in prison and Swissa to eight months. The terms include time served.
The court also handed the pair a suspended sentence of one year behind bars and ordered them to pay their victim a total of NIS 3,000 ($850) in damages. They were demoted to the rank of private.
“There is no doubt the offenses as described are grave,” the court said in its ruling. “These actions warrant stringent punishment in the form of imprisonment for many months, in light of the violation of societal values.”