State drops sexual assault probe into former Netanyahu chief of staff
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State drops sexual assault probe into former Netanyahu chief of staff

Police recommended an indictment of Gil Sheffer for abducting and assaulting woman, but prosecutor says evidence insufficient

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his former chief of staff, Gil Sheffer, during a goodbye party for Sheffer at the Prime Minister Office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his former chief of staff, Gil Sheffer, during a goodbye party for Sheffer at the Prime Minister Office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

A criminal investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff has been closed due to lack of evidence, the Tel Aviv district prosecution announced Tuesday.

Gil Sheffer, who held the top post in the Prime Minister’s Office from May 2012 to July 2013, was named last year as the suspect in a case involving allegations of sexual assault.

He was accused of forcibly taking a woman to an apartment where there were other men, forcing her to perform for them, and trying to kiss her against her will.

Ari Harow (R) sits next to his predecessor as chief of staff Gil Sheffer (L) seen during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on February 9, 2014. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

The woman who accused Sheffer of assault filed a complaint in October 2016, claiming the 47-year-old former official locked her in an apartment against her will and forcibly tried to kiss her after they met at a conference.

She said Sheffer gave her a ride home and during the journey, sat next to her on the backseat, plied her with alcohol, and touched her against her will. He then took her to an apartment where there were other men, she said, forced her to perform for them, and tried to kiss her against her will.

It was not clear if the alleged incident took place while Sheffer was serving in the Prime Minister’s Office.

In its January announcement recommending charges against Sheffer, the Israel Police said its investigation had found sufficient evidence to try Sheffer for “indecent acts” — meaning sexual offenses — but that there was not enough proof to try him for false imprisonment.

The state prosecution thought otherwise.

“After carefully assessing the case material, it has been decided to close the case against the suspect due to a lack of evidence,” prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday.

Responding to the decision, Sheffer’s lawyer Gil Friedman told The Times of Israel that his client was “delighted by the correct decision to close the case.”

Prime Minister’s Bureau Chief Gil Sheffer (left) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Sheffer’s resignation as chief of staff came after just one year on the job, amid reports of a previous sexual harassment allegation against him dating back some 15 years.

In 2012, a woman filed a complaint against Sheffer for alleged sexual harassment, but then-attorney general Yehuda Weinstein ruled against opening a police investigation due to the statute of limitations having expired. In 2013 the claims were made known to the public when the woman again requested that Weinstein investigate them, purporting to have new evidence. However, after consultation with the Civil Service Commission it was again decided not to open a probe.

The departure was reportedly agreed upon with the prime minister, and Sheffer denied his resignation had anything to do with the allegations against him. “There was no connection between the departure and these claims,” he said in a statement at the time.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The Prime Minister’s Office also said the resignation was unrelated to the allegations.

The scandal was a further blow to the Prime Minister’s Office given Sheffer had replaced Nathan Eshel, who was himself forced to quit as chief of staff amid a harassment investigation.

In 2012, Eshel stepped down as part of a plea bargain over allegations of sexual misconduct, specifically that he had used a surreptitiously placed camera to film under the skirt of a female colleague. He was also accused of accessing her private emails.

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