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Rapist nightclub owner paroled on condition he stay out of Tel Aviv

Panel rules victims’ fears of running into their attacker, Alon Kastiel, should not be the deciding factor in his early release

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Real estate promoter and Tel Aviv nightlife figure Alon Kastiel arrives at the Hermon Prison in the northern part of Israel to begin serving his sentence for sex offenses, August 26, 2018. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)
Real estate promoter and Tel Aviv nightlife figure Alon Kastiel arrives at the Hermon Prison in the northern part of Israel to begin serving his sentence for sex offenses, August 26, 2018. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

A prison parole board agreed to grant an early release to rapist and sex offender Alon Kastiel on Monday, despite strenuous efforts by state prosecutors and by his victims to prevent the panel from shortening his sentence.

Under the board’s ruling, Kastiel will be released shortly on the condition that he stay outside Tel Aviv — the city where he committed his crimes and where some of his victims still live or work. The exact date will be decided once a clear plan for his release has been drawn up and agreed upon, the board said in its decision.

The board said its decision to bar Kastiel from Tel Aviv was made out of sensitivity to the victims’ “fears that they will meet the inmate on the streets of the city.”

In July 2018, Kastiel was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison as part of a plea deal in which he confessed to committing sexual offenses against four women. Over a dozen women had filed police complaints against Kastiel, including for rape. He was eventually convicted of one charge of attempted rape, forced indecent acts, indecent acts and sexual harassment.

Under Israeli law, a convict can request early parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence. Kastiel first applied for parole last August, but his request was denied outright. He applied again in May and his request was approved by the parole board, though it was later appealed by state prosecutors, and a district court ordered the parole board to hear the views of the victims before rendering a decision.

The board approached all four victims, but only two decided to appear before the panel. One appeared before the board during Kastiel’s first hearing and said she did not want to do so again, and the other could not be reached. During the hearing, two of his victims “expressed strenuous opposition to his early release and stressed the ongoing harm that he caused them and that will stay with them for a long time, even after the prisoner’s [scheduled] release,” the board said. State prosecutors also objected to Kastiel’s release.

“I’ve been in a prison ever since he attacked me. He’s been in prison for only three years and even the ridiculous sentence that he received — four years and nine months — he wants to shorten. I’ve been in a prison for seven years since the day of the attack,” one of the victims, Ofri Yahav, told the board.

“I’m afraid to walk around Tel Aviv. I never had children because I’m afraid I’ll have a daughter who will — heaven forbid — be forced to go through what I went through. He’s asking for mercy because he received a shortened sentence and now he wants to get out even earlier? I want him to sit here for those miserable nine months just so I can continue to rehabilitate my life,” she said.

The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, which assisted the victims, called the board’s ruling “disappointing and outrageous,” noting what it described as a light sentence for Kastiel despite the severity of his crimes as part of the plea deal.

“We are not blind to the views of the victims of the crime, but the circumstances of this case lead us to the conclusion that their positions should not be the deciding factor,” two of the three parole board members wrote.

A third board member dissented and opposed Kastiel’s release on the grounds that the victims’ fears ought to be the deciding factor.

“It is in the public good, including the good of the victims themselves, that the inmate continue treatment related to his crimes and that he be released with professional assistance and appropriate oversight. The inmate’s gradual integration into the community is important and contributes to preventing his return to the cycle of crime,” the board wrote in its majority decision.

In its ruling, the panel noted that Kastiel had completed a treatment plan in prison and that a joint Health Ministry-Welfare Ministry committee had determined that his “danger level” was estimated to be “low.”

The parole board also said that it believed Kastiel would be better served continuing his treatment, which he can no longer receive in prison.

“The inmate has finished the treatment offering that was given to him in prison so continued incarceration would cause him to halt treatment,” it said. “There is value in allowing consistent treatment outside of prison instead of continued incarceration without treatment.”

In one case, Kastiel admitted to attempting to force a woman to engage in sexual relations with him in the back room of one of his clubs, despite her repeated protestations. She eventually managed to run off. In another, he forcibly carried out “indecent acts” against a woman at another club.

In two other cases, Kastiel attempted to forcibly kiss a woman and placed his hands on a woman’s breasts.

The plea deal did not include a specific agreement on the sentence. At the time of sentencing, the prosecution had requested eight years behind bars, while his lawyer asked for 18 months.

Kastiel was also ordered to compensate each of the women he was convicted of assaulting with sums ranging from NIS 15,000 (approximately $4,470) to NIS 50,000 ($14,900).

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