A convicted serial sex offender will be released from prison early after a court rejected Monday an appeal by the state, drawing anger from one of his victims and condemnation from women’s rights groups.
Prosecutors had told the Nazareth District Court that insufficient consideration was given to the risk that release of Alon Kastiel seven months early would pose to his victims.
But the court ruled that the Israel Prisons Service parole board, which last month shortened Kastiel’s sentence, had acted within the law.
“We are aware of the great suffering and pain of the victims of the crime to this day and the great distress from which they suffer, as is reflected in what they said before the Parole Board,” the court noted.
“We also understand the sense of frustration of the victims of the crime who believe that the punishment imposed on the respondent was too light in their opinion and therefore in these circumstances, he must serve it to the end,” the court said.
The court said the parole board had, as required by law, sought an opinion of risk assessment and that it had also heard the position of victims.
According to the ruling, the parole board considered if Kastiel, who owned several nightclubs in Tel Aviv, still posed a threat and the strength of rehabilitation activities.
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.
One of Kastiel’s victims, who was at Monday’s hearing, decried the court’s ruling as “cruel and disappointing.”
Sari Golan said after the decision that if Kastiel really had changed his ways, then he would complete his sentence out of consideration for his victims.
“He would sit and finish the seven and a half miserable months he has left, in order for us to complete our medical and mental rehabilitation in peace, and for that, we won’t forgive him,” she told reporters.
“He could have done something different and he chose to continue to abuse us right until the end,” she said.
Golan noted that she was given the opportunity to speak at the hearing and even address Kastiel himself.
“Victims have a place to speak in the court, they have a voice, name and face,” she said, but lamented that many go unheard.
“There are dozens of victims here who were not allowed to speak, also not at the parole board meetings,” Golan said, calling for a change in the law to not allow parole for sex offenders.
Hagit Pe’er, chair of the Na’amat women’s rights group, slammed the court for making a “serious mistake” in releasing Kastiel, and said that it did not “correct the terrible injustice” of the parole board decision.
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel said in a statement that the court had made a “mistake” but that Kastiel would now face the court of public opinion, “and the verdict of the public is clear.”
The prison parole panel, in granting his release, 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.
Under the parole ruling, Kastiel will be released 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. He must also not enter Givatayim or Ramat Gan.
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.”
The board approached all four victims in whose cases Kastiel was found guilty, but only two appeared before the panel. One had 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.
One board member dissented and opposed Kastiel’s release on the grounds that the victims’ fears ought to be the deciding factor. State prosecutors also objected to Kastiel’s release.
On top of his original prison sentence, 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).