A lawyer representing the family of a man killed in a November road rage incident has agreed to refund much of the family’s legal fees after sparking an uproar by charging them more than half a million shekels.
Eyal Besserglick, a criminal lawyer based in Petah Tikva, was leading the legal case on behalf of the family of Yuri Volkov, a healthcare aide who was stabbed to death in Holon after getting into an argument with a motorized scooter driver while crossing a road.
In the aftermath of the incident, the Volkov family embarked on a crowdfunding campaign in order to support themselves as well as finance their legal case, raising NIS 915,000 ($270,000).
However, Channel 12 reported on Wednesday that Besserglick had charged the Volkov family NIS 585,000 ($170,000) — almost two-thirds of the amount raised.
On Thursday, Besserglick, in a lengthy statement posted on his Twitter feed, agreed to return NIS 485,000 ($143,000) to the family, keeping the remaining NIS 117,000 ($34,500) for the work his team had already carried out, he said.
“To my amazement, a few days ago, a third party contacted me, demanding I return the family’s money,” Besserglick said. “My attempts to contact the family were unsuccessful. I asked for a meeting to discuss things, but I was refused. Immediately after that, false information was published in the media that presented me as someone who played the family.”
Channel 12 aired conversations the family had had with Besserglick in which he appeared to refuse to hand back the money, prior to the matter being publicized.
Yelena’s daughter, Daria, messaged Besserglick asking him to cancel the contract. According to Yelena, after a heated discussion, Besserglick sent a message saying “I see ungratefulness in your conduct.” On another occasion, he told the widow’s daughter “instead of gratitude I see ungratefulness.”
In combative interviews Thursday evening, the attorney said he had done months of work on behalf of the family and that they had agreed and signed the contract without any coercion or pressure.
News outlets disputed that he had done much, with Channel 12 saying the state prosecution had largely handled the case against the alleged killer, and it is unclear that Besserglick did anything of much importance.
Speaking to the Ynet news outlet, the victim’s wife, Yelena, who works at Ichilov Medical Center where her deceased husband also once worked, said she felt “a weight had been lifted off her chest” with the return of the money.
“He didn’t do any work for it. What he did was not work.”
Besserglick is a candidate for the presidency of the Israel Bar Association. According to him, the negative media attention was a deliberate ploy by those opposed to his candidacy.
“When I decided to announce my candidacy for the presidency of the Bar Association, I took into account that there would be elements that would try to harm me at all costs,” he said.
The lawyer concluded his statement by rallying his colleagues to fight against stereotyping attorneys as “demons,” adding: “I will fight for my name and the name of attorneys who experience this every day.”