The Tel Aviv District Court accepted the state’s appeal on Monday morning, sentencing Shlomo Lahiani, the former mayor of Bat Yam who was convicted on three counts of breach of trust, to eight months in prison.
“The moral message in this case demands time behind bars,” said Judge Dvora Berliner, who headed the panel of judges at the appeal. The bribery charges against Lahiani were stricken from the original indictment in a plea bargain that was approved in May 2014 under which Lahiani agreed to perform six months of community service without any prison time. The latest ruling, the judges said, would help deter corruption by establishing that a breach of trust conviction carried an “unequivocal” sentence.
Lahiani, who will begin serving his sentence on June 1, said he intended to appeal to the Supreme Court.
But according to Berliner’s ruling made public Monday, “When the public loses trust [in public officials], it loses its trust in the social contract. The conflict of interest here was severe, and the principle of integrity [in public service] was severely compromised by his actions. We are compelled to agree with the prosecution’s view that the breach of trust borders on graft, and the sentence must be an unequivocal one.”
“We are ordinary Jews, and whatever God does is for the best,” Lahiani said after the District Court’s ruling that effectively overturned his plea bargain. “I chose the plea bargain to shorten the process. We were drawn into this appeal and will be forced to go through the next one.”
Lahiani’s attorney, Yaron Kostelitz, said he was disappointed with the outcome, promising his client would appeal to the Supreme Court.
“Breach of trust is a significant offense, close to bribery, and the court ruled justly,” prosecuting attorney Sharon Kahana said of the ruling.