Sara Netanyahu convicted of lesser crime in private chef case

By Allen Cone
Sara Netanyahu convicted of lesser crime in private chef case
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appears in Jerusalem's Magistrate Court on Sunday. Sara Netanyahu attended a hearing on a plea deal over the misuse of state funds for meals at the premier's residence. Photo by Debbie Hill/pool/EPA/UPI

June 16 (UPI) -- Sara Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister's wife, on Sunday was convicted of a lower crime of breach of trust that involves no jail time in a private chef case after accepting a plea deal in a court in Jerusalem.

Under the deal, Benjamin Netanyahu's wife confessed to a reduced charge of intentionally exploiting another person's error in lieu of the more serious charge of aggravated fraud that carried a prison term of up to eight years. She was sentenced to pay $15,210, including $10,000 as a fine and the rest to the state for fees, from the prosecution's original request of $99,705.


In addition, the state can sue Netanyahu, 60, in civil court for an additional $48,600.

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court approved the deal, which the prime minister's wife signed Wednesday.


Netanyahu told Judge Avital Chen she was aware of the charges.

As in every plea bargain, each side makes concessions, prosecutor Erez Padan said Sunday.

"The defendant's confession to the facts laid out in the amended indictment and to committing a criminal offense, and her agreement to be convicted without the need to hear evidence, guarantees she is taking responsibility, which carries a lot of weight," Padan said during the hearing.

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Attorney Yossi Cohen, who represents Netanyahu, blasted the prosecution Sunday.

"This is one of the most severe and hurtful punishments that a person I know has received," Cohen said in court. "This is the result of four years of ugly, tendentious, libelous leaks that spilled my client's blood. They forgot she is also a mother, a wife.

"I stood here astonished at the lengths our society is willing to go to hurt a person. And of course nobody wanted to hurt Mrs. Netanyahu. The goal was to hurt her husband, topple the government."

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Also Sunday, the High of Justice rejected a petition by journalist Uri Misgav the plea arrangement was too lenient. The state was accused of bowing to political pressure.

The state responded that the rule of law was being validated in that Netanyahu confessed to a crime after years of denying any wrongdoing.


The revised indictment was not filed until last Wednesday although her lawyers had agreed to the deal on May 29.

Last June, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit indicted her for fraud with aggravated circumstances and breach of public trust.

From September 2010 until March 2013, Netanyahu allegedly acted in coordination with the other defendant in the case, former Prime Minister's Office deputy director-general Ezra Seidoff, to falsely misrepresent that the prime minister's residence did not employ a chef.

They were accused of misusing state funds for catered meals costing $100,000.

That amount was slashed by half in the amended indictment to some $50,000, although Netanyahu will only return some $12,500 of it to the state.

Seidoff's plea deal includes admitting to the same crime as Netanyahu, with a fine of $2,777 as well as community service hours.

Separately, Benjamin Netanyahu is facing possible indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The allegations include the prime minister accepted illicit gifts, took bribes, and tried to arrange favors for media barons in exchange for positive press coverage.

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