American-Israeli accuses cops of abuse during weed probe
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American-Israeli accuses cops of abuse during weed probe

Family claims it was dragged into drug case, had its ‘aliya dream turned into nightmare,’ over joke text message; police: we have ‘serious evidence’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative: Israeli police walk outside of Jerusalem's Old City (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
Illustrative: Israeli police walk outside of Jerusalem's Old City (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

An American-Israeli family had their lives and Modiin home turned upside down earlier this month, as police investigated them for using and selling drugs.

The father, Jay Engelmayer, first detailed his family’s experiences in a blog post on The Times of Israel, titled, “My aliyah dream turned into a nightmare”. The story has since been commented on over 350 times, it’s been shared on social media, and other English and Hebrew news sites have already written about the case.

Engelmayer, who is originally from New York, claimed the family was dragged into the case because of an exchange his 14-year-old daughter had with a school mate about where to buy drugs.

“They have a text message from my daughter from a year and a half ago to this kid,” Engelmayer told The Times of Israel.

Jay Engelmayer (courtesy)
Jay Engelmayer (courtesy)

“He said, ‘Hey, do you know where I can buy drugs?’ And she said, ‘Sure, my dad’s got a whole forest full in our backyard,'” Engelmayer said.

“It was a joke. It wasn’t something that was serious.”

The Modiin Police, however, did not think this case was a laughing matter. “A police investigation is being conducted at the station as part of an ongoing drug investigation among teenagers,” Israel Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said.

“There is strong evidence that is being examined as the investigation continues,” he added.

As a result of that evidence, the police “barged into” the Engelmayer’s home early in the morning on January 11, opening every drawer and closet in the house, and strip-searching him.

Engelmayer told The Times of Israel that he has smoked marijuana during visits to the United States, but refrains from doing so in Israel. With a family full of children, who often invite their friends over, he and his wife decided not to allow anything “that could get anyone in trouble” in their home.

“We don’t even have a bottle of wine in the house,” he said.

According to police, nothing out of the ordinary occurred during the search of the family home. “During the investigation police searched the suspect’s house based on a court order. The suspect was present at the search and signed at the conclusion that there was no damage to property or harm to the person.”

The police officers took Engelmayer and his daughter to the police station for questioning. Over the course of the next few hours, Engelmayer claimed he was interrogated by police without his attorney present and his 14-year-old daughter was similarly questioned without an attorney or legal guardian in the room.

‘[I was] told that my older daughter was a whore, that my wife and I are bad parents. Things like that are just nasty.’

During the interrogation, Engelmayer said, he was put in shackles on both his arms and legs and threatened with having his children taken away.

“They were treating me like no matter what, they’ve got all this evidence that I’m completely guilty. And that was it,” he said.

“What bothered me,” Engelmayer said, “is the verbal abuse that was dished out, being told that my older daughter was a whore, that my wife and I are bad parents. Things like that are just nasty.”

The police would not discuss the specifics of Engelmayer’s assertions, but said, “Everything was done under strict authorization. He was questioned exactly the way that anyone else would be questioned.”

Following Engelmayer’s interrogation, and based off the evidence that the police had, he was placed under house arrest at a family member’s house for five days, as his own home was still under investigation.

While Engelmayer stayed at his wife’s cousin’s home, his wife and 15-year-old son were also questioned by police.

The investigation has been traumatizing for his family, Engelmayer said.

‘I wrote it without thinking that it would get the kind of traction that it did.’

“My daughter who’s an outgoing child, ever since last Monday has been going to school, coming back and locking herself in her room,” he said.

Engelmayer said he wrote his Times of Israel blog post as way to unload some of the tension, to provide an easy way for people to find out what happened without having to explain it over and over again.

“I did it so that our friends and family could actually see what had happened,” he said. “I wrote it without thinking that it would get the kind of traction that it did.”

Though he admitted, “I am glad that it got the traction that it did.”

Rosenfeld, however, did not look kindly on Engelmayer’s post, calling it “unfortunate.”

Other than that, the police spokesperson could not elaborate on the ongoing investigation. “It is still underway and therefore we can not add further details at the moment,” he said.

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