Trial begins for main suspect in revenge murder of Palestinian teen

The trial began for the main suspect in the kidnap and revenge murder of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

Yosef Haim Ben-David reportedly announced in Jerusalem District Court on Sunday that he is “the messiah.”

Ben-David, 29, of the Adam settlement near Jerusalem is expected to enter an insanity. He owns an eyewear store in Jerusalem.

Attorney Aharon Roza asked that Ben-David be examined by an outside psychiatrist to determine his fitness for trial, the Times of Israel reported.

Ben-David is accused of beating 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir unconscious and then burning him to death. He and two other suspects, both 16-year-old males — from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh — told investigators that the slaying was in revenge for the kidnapping and murder last month of three Israeli teens.

The suspects have admitted to the murder and reenacted it for police.

Ben-David, who was committed to a mental hospital in recent months after allegedly attempting to murder his infant daughter, also is charged with attempting to kidnap a 7-year-old boy from eastern Jerusalem a day before the murder of Khdeir.

Khdeir was kidnapped from his eastern Jerusalem neighborhood early on the morning of July 2 and murdered hours later, less than a day after the funerals of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.


Feds Indict Suspect in Murder of JDL’s Krugel

Almost nine months after the brutal prison-yard slaying of Earl Krugel, the longtime No. 2 man in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), federal authorities have indicted an inmate with no apparent ties to Krugel.

The suspect, David Frank Jennings, 30, allegedly attacked Krugel from behind with a piece of concrete hidden in a bag while Krugel was using an exercise machine at a federal prison in Phoenix.

The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on July 19, offers neither details nor motive, asserting that Jennings “with premeditation and malice aforethought willfully kill and murder Earl Leslie Krugel.”

Jennings is the only person charged in the killing that took place in plain view. Authorities contend that Jennings acted alone.

“He was the only one charged. There was no conspiracy,” said Ann Harwood, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix,
Authorities would say little else, including anything about the motive of the alleged killer, a small-time repeat offender with nothing in his rap sheet to suggest either this level of violence or any particular animosity toward the 62-year-old Krugel.

Krugel had been transferred to the Federal Corrections Institute (FCI) Phoenix, a medium security prison, just three days before the assault. To date, there is no indication that Krugel and Jennings knew each other.
“My husband was brutally murdered just a few days after he was sent to that prison,” Lola Krugel said. “He wasn’t there long enough to make any deadly enemies.”

At the time of Krugel’s attack, Jennings was serving a 70-month sentence at FCI Phoenix for a 2003 bank robbery in Las Vegas, which netted him $1,040. Because Jennings had threatened the teller during the robbery, authorities eventually extended his plea bargain sentence from 63 months to 70 months.

Jennings, who lived in Oregon before moving to Nevada, has multiple convictions, but court records reviewed by The Journal did not indicate any association with racist or anti-Semitic groups in or out of prison.

In 1993,Jennings was convicted in Oregon on an Assault III charge; a “class C” state felony, which resulted in an 18-month state prison sentence. In 1994 he was arrested and convicted for unauthorized use of a vehicle and sentenced to six months in jail. In 1995, a probation violation cost him another six months.

He had apparently moved to Nevada by 1996. That same year he was arrested and pleaded guilty to state charges of grand larceny and unlawful possession of a credit card, for which he received a sentence of 16 to 72 months in state prison.

Krugel was transferred to the Phoenix facility to serve out the balance of a 20-year sentence, following his negotiated guilty plea to conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges. The high-profile case against Krugel and the JDL involved an abortive bombing plot against possible targets that included a Culver City mosque and the field office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), an Arab-American of Lebanese descent.

A fitness fanatic, Krugel was using exercise equipment when he was blind-sided between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2005. Details of the assault did not emerge in previous reports; a review of the autopsy depicts a vicious attack.

His main injury was the initial blow to the back of his head, which crushed the left side of his skull and severely damaged his brain and brain stem. But his attacker also delivered multiple blows to Krugel’s skull, face and neck, according to the autopsy, which was performed by the Maricopa County medical examiner and obtained by The Journal. Krugel suffered multiple skull fractures, internal bleeding and multiple lacerations to his head, face and brain. The beating knocked out teeth and also fractured one of his eye sockets.
Krugel was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death marked the violent end, in prison, for both local leaders of an organization that advocated the use of violence, as necessary, in defending the interests of Jews. JDL head Irv Rubin died in 2002, at 57, from injuries he suffered after jumping or falling from a railing inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. Authorities ruled Rubin’s death a suicide, though family members contested that finding. Krugel, a dental technician by trade, was Rubin’s longtime close friend and second-in-command.

Krugel and Rubin were arrested in late 2001. They were accused, in the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, of plotting violent revenge against Muslims and Arabs. No attack was carried out. Krugel spent four years in federal lock-up in Los Angeles. It was the resolution of his case, with the guilty plea to reduced charges, that landed him in Phoenix.

Lola Krugel said she’s relieved that someone has finally been charged in her husband’s murder. But she and Krugel’s sister, Linda, both expressed frustration and anger over the time it took to make an arrest, as well as the FBI’s unwillingness to share information with the family.

“He did it right there in the open,” said Lola Krugel, referring to the attacker. “There had to be witnesses and cameras. So why did it take so long for them to charge this man?”

The delay was not foot-dragging but a desire to get it right, said Patrick Snyder, assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the criminal division in the Phoenix office: “Since the murder occurred in prison, we know the assailant is already in custody. So we’re not under the same kind of time pressure to make an arrest that we are when a killer is still at large.”

Lola Krugel filed a wrongful-death claim against the federal government in February, which has since been denied. The family says it’s now preparing to file a civil lawsuit. The rejected claim had asked for $10 million for personal injury and $10 million for Krugel’s wrongful death.

“It’s an ‘outrage figure,'” said family attorney Benjamin Schonbrun, a partner in the Venice-area firm of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman. “A figure to illustrate the outrage Lola Krugel feels over the murder of her husband, plus the anger she felt over her inability to get any information from the government.”

The Trials of Ted Deutsch

Auschwitz survivor Tibor (Ted) Deutsch will never forget the dark day in 1944 that forever shaped his life. Deutsch was only 16 when he and his older brother, Georg, were among the 1,000 Jews assigned to slave labor at a Trzebinia subcamp assigned to the service the venerable German construction company Hochtief.

A Hochtief employee prone to terrorizing the Deutsch brothers with physical violence ended Georg’s life with one final, brutal, unprovoked assault, before his brother’s eyes. Georg was only 18.

"I can still see his face," Deutsch said as he recalled his brother’s murderer. "I still hear his voice. It rings in my ears."

Deutsch, now a 74-year-old retired jewelry manufacturer residing in Studio City, has waged a lawsuit against Hochtief, a company established in 1875 and still thriving in Germany today. Deutsch filed a reply brief with the Court of Appeals on March 13. If he wins the appeal, the case will go to trial.

Unlike many Holocaust reparation class-action lawsuits against banks, insurance companies and countries, the Duetsch case targets a privately owned corporation.

The protracted legal saga began back in 1999, when Deutsch’s longtime companion, Judy, received a book in the mail from friends in Israel: the 1989 volume, "The Auschwitz Chronicles" by Danuta Czech. When Judy opened the book, she stumbled onto something that made her scream: a photo detail of a Holocaust-era Hochtief document listing slave labor employees. On that list were the names of Tibor and Georg Deutsch. Georg had downplayed his age by two years so that he would not be separated from his younger brother. Unfortunately, he paid for this gesture with his life.

The list provided the solid evidence Deutsch needed to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against Hochtief, which recently merged with an American company called Turner Construction. (Deutch filed a lawsuit once previously, but was unsatisfied with his settlement.)

It was while attending services at Congregation Beth Meir of Studio City, that Deutsch met a woman whose brother is Nate Kraut, a Los Angeles-based attorney who is a certified appellate specialist with nearly 20 years of experience.

For Kraut, Deutsch’s story resonated on a personal level for the appellate attorney.

"My father was in Auschwitz," Kraut said, "and a slave laborer as well."

Kraut took on Deutsch’s case because of his "admiration for Ted’s insistence for what was morally right. The challenge for me is to make sure that what’s legally right fits in with what’s morally right. He’s very driven in wanting to expose what Hochtief did to him. These corporations are being allowed to hide. [They say,] ‘Here we’ll toss him some money and no one will know the difference.’"

In the summer of 1999, Hochtief successfully moved the case from state court to federal court, where the federal court judge granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, based on the conclusion that the case presented a "nonjusticable political question."

Initially, the German government and German corporations refused to allow distribution of any of the money until all lawsuits had been dismissed. Hochtief accused the Deutsch lawsuit of holding up the reparations process, but Kraut said that this accusation is false.

"The other side managed to convince the courts that this involved a political question and therefore the court stayed out of it," Kraut said. "But the matter is Deutsch directly filed a claim against Hochtief, a German corporation, not the German government."

Moreover, the District Court’s ruling effectively declared California’s statute on the subject to be unconstitutional.

After the District Court dismissed Deutsch’s case, the German government, bowing to international pressure, was forced to pass the necessary legislation to release compensation funds anyway.

"Part of the silliness," Kraut said, "is that they aren’t denying that this went on. They’re saying that ‘you can’t pursue this. This can’t touch us.’ It is clear that a company like Hochtief will only respond by money. That’s all they understand."

Lawsuits notwithstanding, the rage and sadness over his brother’s death has been balled up inside Deutsch for years. His pain has not only taken a toll on his health — he recently underwent open-heart surgery — but on the emotional health of Judy, his companion of three decades, he said.

"Through the years Ted became narrowed by this," said Judy. "Day and night, he cannot sleep, and we’re at the breaking point. Especially me."

"What they did," Deutsch said, "couldn’t be done 50 years ago, and it can’t be done today. Murder has no statute of limitations."