Beloved children’s television star Yuval Shem Tov, known professionally as Yuval Hamevulbal, was sentenced Sunday to 300 hours of community service for six counts of cocaine possession.
The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court also handed Shem Tov a three-month suspended sentence and a NIS 2,500 ($715) fine as part of a plea deal.
Shem Tov, whose stage name translates to Yuval the Befuddled, was arrested last year following a police raid on an apartment in Tel Aviv that yielded several arrests in connection to a widespread distribution of cocaine throughout the country.
Police found a list of alleged clients on one suspect’s phone, many of whose names are recognizable to the Israeli public – Shem Tov among them. Also listed were actors, lawyers, a model, and an American journalist — none of whom have since been publicly identified.
The traffickers were suspected of running a courier service delivering high-quality cocaine to the VIP customers, who paid an astronomical NIS 2,000 ($560) per gram, the Kan public broadcaster reported at the time.
Shem Tov admitted to purchasing cocaine several times, but insisted that it was exclusively for personal use.
Mental health professionals who questioned him said he had expressed remorse and cooperated, recommending that the court not convict him.
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In their report, they said Shem Tov had resorted to intensive drug use as a tool to deal with problems at home. He “acknowledged the severity of his actions and expressed his will to return to leading a proper, stable lifestyle, without resorting again to drug use or additional involvement with the law.”
Shem Tov, who launched a failed bid for the Knesset in 2015, had asked the court to refrain from convicting him to avoid harming his US visa, which he needed for periodic performances there for Jewish audiences.
Two weeks ago, during a hearing on his sentence, Shem Tov made an emotional speech, requesting “forgiveness from my parents, my wife, my children and the audience that looks up to me as a role model. I take full responsibility for what I’ve done.”
But on Sunday, judge Shmuel Melamed upheld the conviction, saying its cancellation would “very seriously harm the public interest.” He cited Shem Tov’s addiction, repeated drug offenses and failure to seek professional help, as laid out in the indictment.
Shem Tov remained silent throughout Sunday’s hearing. His lawyer responded after it by simply saying “we will read the ruling and decide what to do.”
Shem Tov, 47, lives in Neve Yarak, a moshav in central Israel, with his wife and six children.
Yaakov Schwartz contributed to this report.