Sexual misconduct charges against Ashkelon mayor dropped

Itamar Shimoni says ‘at last justice is done,’ but still on trial for bribery, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering

Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni arrives for a hearing at the Tel Aviv District Court on February 28, 2017. (Flash90)
Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni arrives for a hearing at the Tel Aviv District Court on February 28, 2017. (Flash90)

A court dismissed charges of sexual misconduct against the mayor of Ashkelon on Monday, citing a lack of evidence.

Itamar Shimoni had been accused by two women of sexual misconduct.

“Thank the creator! Despite the price of the harm to me, my wife and my children — at last justice is done,” Shimoni said following the Tel Aviv District Court’s decision.

Despite the dismissal of the charge, the Ashkelon mayor continues to face charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and money laundering, for which he was indicted in February. He reportedly sought money in order to pay out settlement deals to the two women.

His brother Ofer Shimoni and businessmen Yoel Davidi, Moshe Ponte, and lawyer Sharon Miller were also indicted in the case.

The mayor was charged with receiving bribes totaling NIS 466,000 ($124,000) and with breach of trust for accepting a further NIS 575,000 ($153,000) from unknown sources while mayor of the city. He was also charged with tax fraud.

According to the indictment, Shimoni signed compensation deals totaling over NIS 1 million with two former female employees who alleged that he had sexually assaulted them. He then asked his brother Ofer and to Ponte to help him get hold of the money to pay the women.

These two advisers, with the mayor’s knowledge, allegedly turned to various people including entrepreneurs and property developers within the city to find the funds.

Police discovered various ways in which the money was allegedly given to the mayor in exchange for preferential treatment for the donors.

The mayor was also charged of having an associate, Davidi, take ownership of a local website, “Ashkelon 10,” which was highly critical of Shimoni and the council, in order to silence it.

While the prosecutor demanded that he be removed from his position as mayor, Shimoni has continued to serve in the role.

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