An Israeli court has rejected a plea bargain with former chief rabbi Yona Metzger, handing down a harsher sentence of four-and-a-half years in prison on an array of charges ranging from fraud and money laundering to bribery.
On Thursday, Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Yo’ad Hacohen dismissed the prosecution’s plea deal under which 63-year-old Metzger was expected to serve three-and-a-half years in prison, and added a year to the sentence.
The judge told the former chief rabbi that if the plea deal had not been signed with the prosecution, he would have sentenced him to seven years in prison.
Court documents said Metzger would begin to serve out his sentence at the Nitzan Prison in Ramle on May 3, 2017.
Metzger pleaded guilty on January 30 to a raft of corruption under the plea deal. In addition to the three-and-a-half years jail term, the ex-chief rabbi had agreed to confiscation of his apartment in Jerusalem al-Quds, a fine and back taxes.
Under the deal, Metzger was convicted of accepting five million Israeli shekels ($1.3 million) in bribes, down from 10 million in the original indictment, while other charges – including fraud, breach of trust, and money laundering – were to be dropped.
In March 2016, Metzger was accused of accepting some 10 million shekels ($2.6 million) in bribes, and keeping about seven million shekels ($1.8 million) of it for himself.
Police said he had stashed more than 700,000 Israeli shekels ($200,000) with his sister in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, and a search of his home turned up 40,000 shekels (over $11,300 at the time) in cash hidden in various books.
Metzger initially contended that the money in Haifa came from an inheritance, but later investigations found the claim to be unfounded.
He stepped down as Israel’s chief rabbi on July 24, 2013 after 10 years in office.
Israel has two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi and the other Sephardi, whose responsibilities include running rabbinical courts and regulating the kosher food supervision industry.
5 shocking quotes by Israel’s chief rabbis
Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi said Saturday that non-Jews who don’t accept Judaism’s basic laws for humanity should be expelled from Israel and sent to Saudi Arabia. But Jews will hold off on doing that until the messianic age because in the meantime Israel needs non-Jews as servants.
“Who will be the servers? Who will be our assistants?” Yitzhak Yosef said. “Therefore, we leave them here in the land.”
Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, David Lau, last year said it was unacceptable for Israel’s education minister to visit a Conservative Jewish day school.
“To speak deliberately with a specific community and to recognize it and its path, when this path distances Jews from the path of the Jewish people, this is forbidden,” Lau said after Naftali Bennett visited a Solomon Schechter school in New York in 2015.
Lau previously referred derogatorily to blacks at the dawn of his 10-year term, exhorting Jews to spend time learning Torah instead of watching basketball games.
“Why do you care about whether the ‘kushim’ who get paid in Tel Aviv beat the kushim who get paid in Greece?” Kushim is a Hebrew slur for blacks,” Lau said in July 2013.
Former Israeli chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, who died in 2013, said in 2005 that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment to the “godless” people of New Orleans.
“Hundreds of thousands remained homeless. Tens of thousands have been killed. All of this because they have no God,” he said, adding that the hurricane was God’s way of punishing President George W. Bush for his support of Israel’s evacuation that year of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.
In 2007, Yosef stirred controversy for comments about women.
“A woman’s knowledge is only in sewing,” he said. “Women should find other jobs and make chulent but not deal with matters of Torah.”
In a non-verbal rabbinic controversy, former Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger is under indictment for fraud, bribery, theft, money laundering, income tax violations, breach of trust and conspiracy. Metzger, who was arrested in 2013 as his 10-year term of chief rabbi was ending and was indicted in 2015, is suspected of accepting some $2.6 million in bribes. Israel’s attorney general also has accused Metzger of attempting to silence witnesses and interfering with the investigation into his alleged crimes.