Olmert retrial in Talansky Affair begins

Ehud Olmert went on trial for the second time in the the bribery case that led the Israeli prime minister to resign in 2008.

Olmert’s retrial in what became known as the Talansky Affair began with a hearing Tuesday in Jerusalem District Court.

Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the new trial last month and said it will allow new testimony from Olmert’s former assistant Shula Zaken, including recordings of conversations between Olmert and Zaken, who provided the information last spring as part of a plea bargain. Zaken and Olmert reportedly will take the stand in the retrial.

In 2012, The Jerusalem District Court acquitted Olmert on charges of fraud, breach of trust, tax evasion and falsifying corporate records in what became known as the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs. He was found guilty on a lesser charge of breach of trust in what was known as the Investment Center case.

Olmert was accused of allegedly paying for family vacations by double billing Jewish organizations through the Rishon Tours travel agency; allegedly accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman and fundraiser Morris Talansky; and allegedly granting personal favors to attorney Uri Messer when he served as trade minister in the Investment Center case. The charges were filed after he became prime minister in 2006, but covered his time as mayor of Jerusalem and later as a government minister.

He officially resigned as prime minister after police investigators recommended that he be indicted.

Zaken was convicted on two counts of fraudulently obtaining benefits and fraud, and breach of trust in the Rishon Tours case.

In May, Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison for accepting bribes in the real estate scam known as the Holyland Affair and ordered to report to prison on Sept. 1. The prison date was suspended pending his appeal.

He could spend more time in prison if convicted in the second Talansky trial.

Retrial ordered in Md. case held on Shavuot

An Orthodox Jewish plaintiff in a medical malpractice trial will be allowed a retrial after he missed part of the trial for a religious holiday.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 24 that by not rescheduling the court date so that Alexander Neustadter could appear, his opponent went unchallenged, prejudicing the trial.

The trial had been scheduled last year on Shavuot. Neustadter missed the opportunity to challenge a witness for the Holy Cross Hospital of Silver Spring and lost the case. He had sued the hospital for not reintubating his 91-year-old father, a Holocaust survivor, after his breathing tube had been removed.

Neustadter’s attorney notified the defendant’s lawyer shortly after the trial date was set, but the judge was not made aware of the conflict until a month before the trial. The judge said that was too late to change the tight court schedule, the Baltimore Sun reported.

References to pork, Jesus lead to retrial

References to the trial of Jesus and a pork comment made by a defense lawyer for Cisco Systems during a federal trial have led a judge to grant a new trial.

Jurors in Marshall, Texas, last May awarded Commil USA more than $3.7 million in patent infringement damages, though the company asked for $57 million.

Commil charged in a motion for a new trial that the remarks and illusions to the trial of Jesus Christ prejudiced the jury in the case, The American Lawyer reported.

Judge Charles Everingham IV, who presided over the original trial, on Dec. 29 granted the motion for a new trial.

During the questioning of Commil’s owner Jonathan David, who is Jewish and lives in Israel, Cisco counsel Otis Carroll remarked “I bet not pork” after David said that he had dinner with patent inventors at a barbecue restaurant.

The judge rebuked Carroll in front of the jury and Carroll apologized to David, the jury and Commil’s lawyers for the remark.

During his closing remarks, Carroll invoked the trial of Jesus Christ, asking jurors to “remember the most important trial in history, which we all read about as kids, in the Bible.”

Commil’s request for a new trial cited the Jesus reference in the closing argument and the pork comment.

The judge also cited both in granting the new trial.

“This argument, when read in context with Cisco’s counsel’s comment regarding Mr. David and [patent co-inventor] Mr. Arazi’s religious heritage, impliedly aligns Cisco’s counsel’s religious preference with that of the jurors and employs an ‘us v. them’ mentality—i.e., ‘we are Christian and they are Jewish,’ ” Everingham said in his ruling.

Cisco’s motion opposing a new trial said that Carroll’s remarks were “off the cuff” and that Commil was using them to create “the illusion of some kind of anti-Jewish conspiracy by Cisco.”

World Briefs

Princeton, MIT Professors Win Nobels

A professor with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship is sharing this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics Sciences. Daniel Kahneman, 68, based at Princeton University, is sharing the roughly $1 million prize with professor Vernon Smith, 75, of George Mason University. They were given the award for their work using psychological research and laboratory experiments in economic analysis. On Monday, H. Robert Horvitz, a professor at MIT, was announced as one of three winners of the Nobel Prize in medicine.

Israel Dismantles Three Settler

Israeli soldiers dismantled three uninhabited settler outposts in the West Bank. Wednesday’s move came after Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer pledged to remove all illegal enclaves, including populated ones. The head of the army’s Central Command on Wednesday presented settler leaders with a list of some 24 outposts due to be dismantled within a week, Israel Radio reported. Settlers asked to be allowed to appeal before steps are taken, according to the report. On Tuesday, settler leaders accused Ben-Eliezer of targeting the outposts for political reasons. His detractors allege that his stance on the outposts was taken in an effort to win votes from the dovish wing of the party as he fights for reelection as Labor Party leader in November.

Israel Transfers Funds to Palestinian

Israel transferred nearly $15 million in tax money to the Palestinian Authority. The money was the third and final payment of Israel’s promised transfer of some $42 million in tax revenues that Israel had refused to turn over to the Palestinian Authority since the outbreak of the intifada two years ago. The latest transfer was approved following U.S. pressure on Israel to ease the economic hardships of the Palestinians, Israel Radio reported.

Students Sue Mich. U

Two students sued the University of Michigan for hosting a Palestinian solidarity conference. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, is intended to force the university to cancel the conference, slated for this weekend, on the grounds that it “violates free speech by inciting hatred against Americans and Jews,” according to Rick Dorfman. Plaintiffs Dorfman and Adi Neuman head the Michigan Student Zionists campus group, which is supported by Aish HaTorah, the Zionist Organization of America and Coalition for Jewish Concerns-Amcha.

Israel to Close Fuel Depot

Israel’s central fuel depot, a feared target of mega-terror attacks, is to be closed by January. Infrastructure Minister Efraim Eitam decided in consultations Oct. 2 with the director general of the Pi Glilot facility that the fuel stored there would be moved to other installations around the country. Pi Glilot is located near densely populated areas north of Tel Aviv. An attempt earlier this year to carry out an attack at the site failed when a bomb planted beneath a tanker caused only a small fire.

Two Israeli Women on Fortune List

Two Israelis have been included in a list of the most powerful women in business. Bank Leumi President and CEO Galia Maor and Strauss-Elite Group chair Ofra Strauss-Lahat made Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women in Business list, to appear in the Oct. 14 issue. Maor was ranked 34th, while Strauss-Lahat placed 46th on the list of 50 women.

Crown Heights Riots Retrial Likely

The U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for a third trial stemming from the 1991 Crown Heights riots. The high court decided this week not to consider a defense request to throw out charges against Lemrick Nelson stemming from the riots in Brooklyn. During those riots, Yankel Rosenbaum, a Chasidic man, was fatally stabbed during violence that followed the death of Gavin Cato, an African American child hit by a car in a Chasidic motorcade. In January, after an appeals court overturned the convictions of Nelson and Charles Price for civil rights violations in the 1991 murder of Rosenbaum, citing technicalities, the Anti-Defamation League wrote the Justice Department to continue the case. The department’s civil rights division subsequently affirmed the office’s commitment to “continue to pursue meaningful and serious punishment” against Nelson. Price struck a plea bargain in April for 11 years and eight months in prison, but Nelson’s case is still pending.

Y.U. Bequest Now Worth $36 Million

Yeshiva University plans to begin awarding scholarships from a multimillion dollar bequest to the school. The scholarship and loan fund was created after Anne Scheiber, a retired New York civil servant, left $22 million to the school when she died in 1995. The bequest was invested during extended probate hearings and is now worth $36 million. Beginning with the current academic year, students enrolled in Y.U.’s Stern College for Women and those attending the Albert Einstein College of Medicine who previously graduated from Stern will be eligible for the scholarship.

Report Slams Publisher’s Wartime Past

German media giant Bertelsmann used Jewish slave labor and made large profits by selling millions of anti-Semitic books during the Nazi era, according to a commission set up by the firm. The commission also said in a report issued Monday that the longtime company contention that it was a victim of the Nazis was a lie. According to the commision, the Nazis closed the firm in 1944, but probably because the Nazis’ own publishing house wanted to kill off competition, not because of any subversive texts published by Bertelsmann. When Bertelsmann became America’s biggest book publisher by acquiring Random House in 1998, it had said it was prosecuted by the Nazis for its theological works. Accepting the report, the company immediately issued a statement expressing regret for its wartime activities and for subsequent inaccuracies in its corporate history.

Campus Anti-Semitism Blasted

Hundreds of college presidents blasted anti-Semitism on college campuses in a New York Times ad that appeared Monday. Spearheaded by the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Task Force on Anti-Semitism, the statement was created in response to campus activism on the Middle East that in some cases has veered into overt anti-Semitism.

The letter was initiated by James Freedman, former president of Dartmouth College and chair of the AJC’s Domestic Policy Commission. It follows a September speech by Harvard University’s president in which he said that some activities of the campus anti-Israel movement are anti-Semitic.

Musicians on Solidarity Tour

Three American musicians arrived in Israel on a solidarity tour sponsored by the United Jewish Communities. The “Gift to Israel” tour was organized in response to reports that international artists were avoiding appearances in Israel because of the security situation. Andy Statman, Peter Himmelman and Steve Hancoff were due to team up with Israeli musicians in a series of performances around the country.

Lanner Plans to Appeal Conviction

Rabbi Baruch Lanner plans to appeal his conviction for sexually abusing two teenage girls. Lanner, 52, was sentenced last Friday to seven years in prison for fondling the two students between 1992 and 1996, when he was their principal at the Hillel High School in Ocean Township, N.J. The judge denied Lanner’s request for a new trial and for bail pending appeal of the sentence, instead ordering him to prison.

Museum to Act on Artwork Claim

The British Museum said it may return four Old Masters drawings seized from a Jewish collector by the Nazis during World War II.

According to surviving family members, the 16th- and 18th-century drawings were part of the collection of Dr. Arthur Feldmann, a Czech citizen who died during the Holocaust.

Feldmann’s family has spent years searching for his collection of more than 750 drawings, which was seized by the Gestapo.

On Oct. 2, The museum called the family’s claim “detailed” and “compelling,” according to Reuters. A spokeswoman for the museum said the works may be returned to the family, or they will be paid compensation.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.