Court drama: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's legal team has been able to back American Businessman Morris Talansky – the State's key witness in the current investigation against the PM – into a corner during their Sunday's cross-examination, making him admit his police deposition was less than truthful.
Talansky is the State Prosecutor Office's major – if not only – asset in the investigation, which is probing allegations indicating Olmert had illicitly received vast amounts of money from Talansky across a 15-year period.
The prime minister's lawyers said at the end of the discussion that it appeared the police investigators "gave" Talansky information they wanted to hear.
"This is very severe and could be investigated by the state comptroller," said Attorney Nevot Tel-Tzur.
An aide to the prime minister added that the many contradictions in the witness' testimony point to lack of reliability. "We don't expect Talansky to say he gave false evidence to the police, but today everyone was able to see that he is an unreliable person."
Talansky's lawyer, Jack Chen, said that at the end of the third day "we are still at the same point. They are trying to blame Talansky for all the troubles of the world."
Attorney Eli Zoher, lead counsel for the PM, chose to begin the third day of the cross-examination by confronting Talansky with footage taken during his police questioning, prompting the latter to admit that what he said in the police station was forced out of him.
According to Talansky, the atmosphere during his police questioning was chaotic, further stating that he did not recall everything he told police.
Talansky reiterated having given Olmert's former bureau chief Shula Zaken $72,000 to give to the PM; but when asked by Zohar to explain why he told police that he only gave her $10,000 out of the 72k withdrawn from his personal account, Talansky replied that he had not given the PM any money at all.
Zohar then asked the American businessman to explain the contradiction to the court, to which Talansky said that he gave Olmert more than $10,000 and that the 72k were given to Zaken.
"Then what you told police was a lie?" asked Zoher, to which Talansky said that what he told police was not an accurate account of the events, saying again that what he said was forced out of him.
Talansky arriving in court (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
When asked whether police investigators "put words in his mouth", Talansky admitted it appeared to be the case. The investigators, he said, used scare tactics in order to pressure him. Talansky then added that he felt as pressured by the police as he did when he heard Zoher tell the media the defense intends on "crushing his testimony."
Disregarding the remark, Zohar then came out and bluntly asked Talansky if he had made up parts of the story, to which the business man simply answered yes.
The importance of earnest
Both Talansky and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador criticized the various leaks from the interrogation room to the media. Talansky said he was stunned to read all the distorted reports in his case, while Lador said the leaks were a severe breach of protocol.
"The witness reads and hears about future legal proceedings in the media. The legal system cannot allow that." Lador urged the court to issue a temporary gag order on Talansky's testimony, or at least order the witness to refrain for being exposed to the media.
As for the now infamous "crushing" statement made by the prime minister's legal team, Lador said Talansky's testimony must be procured in a manner ensuring the witness is not being intimidated. "We have to make sure we don’t look back at this trial as one in which all the lines were crossed," he said, adding he hoped the State would have a chance to redirect the witness.
Sources on Olmert's legal team concurred, saying the constant leaks are cause for a criminal investigation against the State Prosecutor's Office.
Attila Somfalvi and Efrat Weiss contributed to this report