Olmert seeks sweeping deal ahead of Supreme Court appeal Monday

Olmert seeks sweeping deal ahead of Supreme Court appeal Monday

Prosecutors meet with former PM’s attorneys into the night in bid to merge, mitigate multiple corruption sentences

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks to the press at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 29, 2015. (Amit Shabi/Pool)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks to the press at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 29, 2015. (Amit Shabi/Pool)

Negotiations between state prosecutors and attorneys for former prime minister Ehud Olmert continued late Sunday in a last-minute effort to obtain a broad deal covering at least three corruption cases involving the ex-premier.

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan said last Thursday he had no intention to either “give Olmert what is called a ‘celebrity discount’,” nor to treat him more severely on account of his former high office.

But Olmert’s attorneys, including Eyal Rozovsky, have asked to allow prison sentences in the so-called Holyland and Talansky affairs to run concurrently, and are urging the state to drop obstruction charges and allow a slap-on-the-wrist plea bargain in a third case.

Olmert was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in March 2014 in a real estate corruption case involving the Holyland development in Jerusalem, which officials have characterized as the largest in Israel’s history.

While it struck down the main bribery conviction for Olmert’s part in the Holyland scandal, the Supreme Court last month upheld a more minor bribery conviction in the case, reducing the former prime minister’s original sentence from six years to 18 months. He and others whose convictions were upheld in the case will begin serving their sentences on February 15.

On Monday, Olmert, 70, is set to appeal his bribery conviction in the so-called Talansky affair, which earned him an eight-month prison sentence, to the Supreme Court. The appeal hearing is thought to be a hard deadline for reaching any possible arrangement with the state prosecution.

Olmert was found guilty last year of accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman and fundraiser Morris Talansky in exchange for political favors during his decade-long term as mayor of Jerusalem.

Prosecutors are asking the Supreme Court to add the eight-month Talansky sentence to the 18-month Holyland verdict, for a total of 26 months in prison, while Olmert’s attorneys are seeking a concurrent sentence, allowing him to serve both sentences in the same 18-month span (with a possible one-third of the sentence commuted for good behavior).

According to a Channel 2 report Sunday, prosecutors have not agreed to a concurrent sentence, but would agree to a concurrent sentence for any additional time Olmert might receive on separate obstruction charges if he confesses to the obstruction following the publication of audio recordings in which he is heard apparently coaching his former aide Shula Zaken on how to avoid implicating him in the corruption investigations.

When he eventually enters his prison cell in Ward 10 of Ma’asiyahu Prison in Lod, it will mark an unhappy historic first: Israel’s first imprisoning of a former prime minister.

Another case still involving Olmert is the Rishon Tours double-billing affair, in which Olmert was cleared but could face further legal action.

Reports suggested a broad agreement on combining the trials and sentences of all the various corruption cases is likely to be signed by Olmert on Monday, which would lead to the withdrawal of his Supreme Court appeal on the Talansky sentence.

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