Supreme Court convicts yeshiva student in hit and run
District Court acquits son of prominent rabbi, who confessed to hitting cashier with his car after trying to flee store without paying, for fear of harming his chances of becoming rabbinical court judge. Supreme Court overturns decision, convicts him of aggravated assault, abandonment
The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to convict yeshiva student Itamar Biton of driving into a cashier in a parking lot in Jerusalem in 2006.
The ruling came a week after Justice Edmond Levy harshly criticized Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Drori's acquittal of the man, whose name was cleared for publication on Wednesday.
Biton was convicted of aggravated assault and abandonment and was sentence to one year on probation, and his driver's license was revoked for three years.
The 28-year-old Yeshiva student, who is the son of the Sephardic chief rabbi of Hadera, Shimon Biton, was accused of leaving a store without paying, and then intentionally running into parking lot cashier Noga Zoraish, who is of Ethiopian origin, when she stood in front of his car to stop him from leaving the parking lot without paying as well.
Biton confessed to the allegations against him, but was acquitted by Judge Drori after receiving a letter from Shas Minister Eli Yishai in the defendant's favor and out of concern that a criminal record may harm his chances f being appointed a rabbinical court judge. The State Prosecutor's Office appealed the ruling.
Itamar Biton in court on Thursday (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Judge Drori, whose candidacy for a Supreme Court seat was removed following the scandal, explained that Biton had shown remorse for his actions.
The judge also said that Zoraish had actually benefited from the case, since it helped her become integrated into the Israeli society.
Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy said, "This is a very serious incident. I read the District Court's ruling and I could not understand how the yeshiva student was not convicted, it's inconceivable."
Biton's father has served as the chief rabbi of Hadera for over 30 years, and also heads the Or Yosef institute that is affiliated with the Shas party. Biton's brother Boaz ran Shas' campaign in Hadera in the last elections.
Zoraish (right) in court (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Upon entering the courtroom on Thursday, Biton's brother Boaz said, "We repeat our apology, that was given at the District Court from the bottom of our hearts. This whole thing has been blown out of proportion, and Itamar was actually a pawn used to remove Judge Drori's candidacy to the Supreme Court."
He added that the media did not follow the affair four years ago, but only when "the leftist's war against Drori's appointment" started.
Of his affiliation with Shas, the brother said, "I am a Sephardic haredi, and I am proud of that." He added that the letter sent by Minister Yishai in support of his brother, was fair, and was given as nothing more than a character witness as is customary in other trials.
"This is no attempt on our part to influence the court, and no one is naïve or innocent enough to think that if you are a member of Shas, then you are trying to influence the Supreme Court. On the contrary, this is something that would sabotage you more in the courthouse."
After the verdict was given, a still shaken Zoraish said, "I want to tell Itamar to stop lying." She said she was "pleased that justice was served" and added, "I accept to verdict and especially the fact that Biton won't become a rabbinical court judge.
"I will try to put this all behind me, but I'm not sure I will manage, since I went through a trauma that, until recently, nobody helped me with."
She also addressed Biton's attorney Boaz Kenig, and asked, "Why did Itamar not ask my forgiveness or call me to apologize a year-and-a-half later?"
The lawyer responded saying, "A situation was created… Neither I nor the defendant have any allegations against you." Zoraish insisted: "But he didn't apologize."
Thursday evening, Zoraish's attorney told Ynet she was considering filing a civil lawsuit against the Biton.