State seeks to overturn community service sentence for rapist
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State seeks to overturn community service sentence for rapist

Prosecution says six-month jail term for Yaniv Nahman neither deters nor reflects the seriousness of the crime

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Israelis outside the District Court in Tel Aviv protest against the court'’s decision to sentence a convicted rapist to community service rather than jail. The decision sparked a storm of protest among rape victims'’ groups and a Facebook campaign calling for one of the judges to resign.  Photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90
Israelis outside the District Court in Tel Aviv protest against the court'’s decision to sentence a convicted rapist to community service rather than jail. The decision sparked a storm of protest among rape victims'’ groups and a Facebook campaign calling for one of the judges to resign. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90

The State Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to overrule a district court decision to sentence a convicted rapist to six months of community service instead of putting him behind bars.

The December ruling sparked outrage among women’s rights groups.

Yaniv Nahman was a well-known figure in Tel Aviv’s nightlife scene. Multiple women described meeting the handsome investment manager at a club, then waking up in his bed the next morning without any recollection of how they got there.

Police suspected he was using the date rape drug GHB but were unable to prove it because by the time women filed a police complaint, it was no longer detectable in their bloodstream.

Nahman was originally charged on three counts of rape, the Haaretz newspaper reported at the time, in addition to attempted rape, two counts of indecent acts, sexual harassment of two other women and dozens of counts of privacy violation.

He agreed to a plea bargain in which he admitted to one instance of rape, and on December 27 he was sentenced to six months of community service. Handing down the sentence, Tel Aviv District Court said the light punishment was because Nahman did not use a lot of force in his attacks and because the shaming he experienced on social media during the trial had done irreparable damage to his reputation.

On Tuesday, state prosecution lawyers Joey Ash and Hila Gorney asked the Supreme Court to give Nahman a far more severe sentence, the NRG news site reported.

The two claimed that the court had erred in its interpretation of the law, and that the sentence reflected neither the seriousness of the offense nor Nahman’s guilt, deterred neither the rapist nor others, and failed to meet the requirements of punishment policy for sex offenses in general, and rape and forcible indecent acts in particular.

Furthermore, they claimed that the court had mistakenly interpreted the law dealing with a judge’s discretion in rape cases, and had taken into consideration legally irrelevant factors such as the claim that Nahman was rehabilitated and that his good name had been severely besmirched.

The prosecution argued that the district court had further misinterpreted the law — which mandates a prison term of four to six years for rape — to mean that the sentence did not necessarily mean jail time in practice and could allow for a suspended sentence.

Rape was a serious crime, which deprived the victim of free will and self-respect, invaded her bodily privacy and caused long term harm, the appeal said. This applied to all rapes, regardless of the level of violence used or whether there was a prior sexual relationship between rapist and victim.

Moreover, the prosecutors said, the court failed to give sufficient weight to the fact that Nahman had carried out sexual offenses on the same victim twice, when the first offense — the forcible indecent act — had made the victim’s aversion to sexual relations with him clear and after which she even fled the room where the attack had occurred.

“I’m very happy to hear about the prosecution’s request for a more severe sentence for Nahman,” Roni River, the rape victim whose complaint provided the basis for the prosecution, told Channel 2 news Tuesday. “I was terrified that there wouldn’t be an appeal, that that’s how the justice system in Israel works. It was stressful.”

The principle of congruence demanded that the minimum punishment for rape should be a substantial prison sentence, the prosecution said.

Simona Weinglass contributed to this report.

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