Israel is ashamed: The eight president is a convicted sexual offender. In a historical verdict the Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Thursday that former President Moshe Katsav is guilty of two counts of rape of complainant A from the Tourism Ministry, as well as sexually harassing H, who worked alongside him. In their verdict the judges, led by Judge George Kara, determined that Katsav lied when he claimed that the sexual relations were consensual.
The man who used to be citizen number 1 is now on his way to prison, and now the court must decide how long will he spend behind bars.
Following the conviction and prior to the sentencing, the prosecutors and Katsav's attorneys are preparing their final statements for the plea stage. The State
Prosecutors Ronit Amiel and Nissim Merom, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein are expected to meet over the next few days to discuss the matter.
The maximal penalty for rape is 16 years in jail, and the prosecution is expected to request a substantial prison sentence.
The prosecution is expected to discuss the harsh criminal offenses Katsav has been convicted of, but will also take into account the heavy public price Katsav paid and the time that has past since the offenses were committed.
According to a prosecution official, "All of these considerations will be taken under account, as well as the public interest, and a decision will be made regarding the prosecution's stance."
'No need for character witnesses'
Katsav's attorneys, Avigdor Feldman, Zion Amir and Avi Lavie, are also preparing their arguments.
They intend to claim that the offences their client was convicted of are borderline events which occurred years ago.
Their central argument is expected to be based on "the media's conduct and the incitement campaign against Katsav." According to them, "journalists, commentators and polls turned against Katsav."
The former president's attorneys are expected to present newspaper excerpts to the court in an attempt to prove that "his blood was shed by the media and by (former A-G) Menachem Mazuz."
Katsav's attorneys are also expected to point out his contribution to the State during his terms as mayor, Knesset member, minister and president. They are positive there is no reason to bring character witnesses, "since his work speaks for itself."
It is yet to be determined whether Katsav himself will appear in court during the plea stage and request the court to reduce his sentence.
Following the convictions, the former president exited the courthouse appearing pale and humiliated. Those close to Katsav told Ynet they fear for his life. "We are afraid he won't survive the conviction and take his own life," one of them said. According to them, the court has already made up its mind against Katsav.
Complainants to file civil suit
Attorney Irit Baumhorn, a former member of the prosecution team, told Ynet she is pleased with the verdict. "I definitely feel satisfaction for the complainants. Their struggle is over. On a professional and personal note, I've always claimed this case has a good chance to get a conviction, and I'm happy my professional opinion turned out to be true," she said.
The former president will now have to face not only the upcoming prison sentence, but also civil suits the complainants intend to file, demanding compensation for the offenses.
Attorney Daniel Srur, representing complainant A from the Tourism Ministry, said: "We'll let the dust settle and then consider all of our options, which means civil proceedings. We have a long way to go, including the sentencing, and then we'll decide what the right thing to do is."
Complainant A, from the President's Residence, who was not included in the charge sheet, is also expected to sue Katsav. Her attorney is expected to file a criminal complaint accusing Katsav of assult. Attorney Eldad Yaniv, representing A, said: "We will examine every legal option, as well as a civil suit, in order to prove A is telling the truth. There is no doubt the story of the other victims reminds us of her story, and there is no doubt she is the hero of the day," he said.
As for the possibility that Katsav will request a presidential pardon from the current president, Shimon Peres, officials from the President's Residence said on Thursday that "everyone is equal in the eyes of the law."
After the sentencing, Katsav can turn to Peres and request a pardon, though officials from the President's Residence estimated that even if such a request would be made, the chances that Peres would grant it are low.
Naama Cohen-Friedman and Ronen Medzini contributed to the report.
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