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Soccer player gets early release 2 years into sentence for deadly hit-and-run

Family of Ari Nesher, 17, who died after car slammed into electric bike he was riding with a friend, was opposed to clemency for Yitzhak Asefa

Israeli Premier League soccer player Yitzhak Asefa arrives to hear the verdict in his hit-and-run trial at the Tel Aviv District Court on January 30, 2020. (Flash90)
Israeli Premier League soccer player Yitzhak Asefa arrives to hear the verdict in his hit-and-run trial at the Tel Aviv District Court on January 30, 2020. (Flash90)

Citing his good behavior, the Israel Prison Service’s Parole Board on Monday granted early release to a soccer player, two years into a three-year sentence for the 2018 hit-and-run killing of a teen who was riding on an electric bike with a friend.

Yitzhak Asefa was originally sentenced to 4.5 years behind bars in January 2020, but the Supreme Court later reduced his sentence on appeal to three years.

Asefa, a soccer player for the Israel Premier League’s F.C. Ashdod team, was also ordered at the time to pay NIS 20,000 ($5,796) to the family of Ari Nesher, 17, who died following the accident, and another NIS 5,000 ($1,449) to the family of the other teenager who was riding the bike.

In their decision, the board praised Asefa’s “positive behavior,” which it said demonstrated “responsibility, maturity, clear and stable internal boundaries, commitment to a future as a law-abiding member of society.”

Nesher’s family opposed Asefa’s early release.

Nesher, the son of acclaimed Israeli film director Avi Nesher, was seriously injured in the September 2018 accident and succumbed to his wounds four days later. His friend, whose name was not released, was also injured.

Ari Nesher. (Facebook)

Asefa drove into the pair of teenagers and left them lying in the road before trying to cover up his involvement in the collision by repairing the damage to the car and lying to police.

He was convicted of abandoning Nesher and obstructing the investigation, but was acquitted on the additional charges of drunk driving and speeding on the grounds of reasonable doubt because evidence was collected two hours after the accident.

Asefa did not face charges accusing him of responsibility for Nesher’s death because police blamed the teenager’s friend for the accident.

According to the original indictment, Asefa, 20, began the evening celebrating a friend’s birthday at a club where, together with three others, he consumed three bottles of vodka before the group left to go to another party.

At around 3:35 a.m., Asefa, who was alone in the car, was driving along Rokah Boulevard when the electric bike swerved into his path and he hit the two boys. The force of the collision threw Nesher 23 meters (75 feet) down the road, prosecutors said.

Asefa waited there a short while, then continued moving slowly forward, stopped again and then drove away.

Israeli film maker Avi Nesher speaks to the media after the verdict in the trial of Israeli Premier League soccer player Yitzhak Asefa, at the Tel Aviv District Court on January 30, 2020. (Flash90)

Later that night, Asefa asked a friend to call the Eldan rental car company, tell them the car had been in an accident and ask for a tow truck to take it to a shop to be repaired, “with the intention of preventing or obstructing a judicial proceeding,” prosecutors wrote.

At some point during the night, he returned to the scene of the accident with his friend and found the police there with bits of the car scattered in the road, but did not turn himself in to officers, instead returning to his home.

At 5:20 a.m., police arrived looking for the car, which had been spotted leaving the scene of the accident. When they saw the damage to Asefa’s car, they asked him to explain it and he lied, telling them the car was damaged while it was parked on Ibn Gabirol and he was at the club. He claimed that a friend of his had been driving it, the indictment said.

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