Man freed after killing his rapist to return to jail over parole violations

Yonatan Heilo was released last year after serving 8 years of 12-year sentence; lawyer accuses state of failing to assist in his rehabilitation

Yonatan Heilo is seen leaving the Sharon Prison  on July 23, 2018.(Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Yonatan Heilo is seen leaving the Sharon Prison on July 23, 2018.(Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A parole board on Wednesday ordered Yonatan Heilo to return to prison for a year after violating his parole conditions. Heilo won early release last year after a public outcry over his long sentence for killing his rapist.

Heilo, who had long fought for his freedom, was sentenced in 2013 to 20 years in prison. He became eligible for early release after the Supreme Court cut eight years from his original sentence in 2016, and President Reuven Rivlin commuted part of his remaining sentence a year later. He was freed in July 2018.

The decision on Wednesday did not specify what the violations were, although Hebrew media reports said he had begun abusing alcohol while suffering from depression.

Heilo’s lawyer accused the state of failing his client.

“His story is a legal tragedy,” said Alon Eizenberg, adding that Heilo had been released into an “infinite void, and the authorities did not strive for his rehabilitation.”

Heilo was initially convicted of murdering Yaron Eilin in the coastal city of Netanya, after the latter repeatedly raped, robbed and blackmailed him over a period of several months in 2010.

Yonatan Heilo arrives a the Supreme Court to hear the decision on his appeal on May 31, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Eilin, a convicted felon, reportedly made comments to Heilo during a 2010 Lag B’Omer celebration suggesting that he intended to rape him again. Later that evening, when Eilin went to urinate in an alley and had his back turned, Heilo jumped him from behind, strangled him and beat his body with a rock.

In the original December 2013 verdict, the Lod District Court recognized Heilo as a rape victim, but rejected his claim of self-defense on the grounds that he hadn’t reported the previous assaults to police and that several weeks had elapsed between the last assault and Eilin’s murder.

But in its response to Heilo’s appeal, the Supreme Court recognized the “ongoing taunting” that he suffered “over a long period of abuse by the deceased toward the appellant, which included a web of violent incidents, threats of violence, including threats to the appellant’s life, financial extortion and sexual abuse, which included two acts of sodomy.”

The Supreme Court softened Heilo’s murder conviction, instead finding him guilty of manslaughter and reducing his term from 20 years to 12. Rivlin then commuted part of the sentence to probation, bringing his jail time down to 10 years and eight months and enabling him to seek parole as he had by then served over half of his reduced sentence.

In 2016, at the recommendation of the Justice Ministry, Rivlin turned down Heilo’s request for a full pardon but said he would reconsider if a further request was submitted after a substantial period of time. That request for a presidential pardon, submitted by Knesset member Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union), was signed by more than 70 MKs.

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