The Tel Aviv District Prosecutor’s Office has attacked Channel 1 for airing an investigative story about a deadly 2005 traffic accident that implies that the state covered up crucial evidence in the case.
Attorney Hadas Fuhrer of the Tel Aviv prosecution criticized the report about the traffic death of 16-year-old bicyclist Gal Beck and the expectations raised by Beck’s family and Channel 1 journalist Ayala Hasson. The case was closed at the time, but in light of Channel 1’s findings, Beck’s family is now seeking to reopen it.
Speaking on Army Radio, Fuhrer accused Hasson and her crew of “spilling our blood and drinking it with a spoon.”
“If the complaint about the case had arrived within a reasonable time – a few days, a few months – we would have done it,” Fuhrer said in the interview. “Today, after 10 years, we’re exceptionally limited.”
Beck was killed when a car ran into him at a Tel Aviv intersection. The driver subsequently told the police that the light had turned green in her direction, and Beck was the one who tried to cross the intersection on a red light. The case was quickly closed due to lack of evidence.
But Channel 1’s report concluded that it was probably the driver who ran the red light, citing witnesses who testified to this. The report also implied that the investigation, which reached a different conclusion, had involved a cover-up, possibly because the driver belonged to a wealthy and well-connected family.
The Tel Aviv district attorney at the time was Ruth David. She is now a suspect in a bribery case centered on attorney Ronel Fisher, whose law firm she joined after leaving the prosecution.
The Channel 1 report said the police originally recommended charging the driver with running a red light and killing Beck. A senior police officer told the channel that all the evidence at the time indicated that the driver ran the red light and then lied about it. Moreover, he said, she was driving well over the speed limit – at least 87 kilometers per hour, and possibly as fast as 100 kilometers per hour.
But despite the police recommendation, the prosecution decided two weeks later to close the case on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Monday morning, Gal Beck’s father, Oded, asked the State Prosecutor’s Office in Jerusalem to consider reopening the case in light of Channel 1’s revelations. His appeal was filed after the Tel Aviv prosecution announced the previous day that it had no intention of reopening the case.
In its announcement, the Tel Aviv prosecution disputed Channel 1’s claim about the witnesses.
“One eyewitness to the accident, whose testimony was taken at the scene after the accident, explicitly said the light in the direction the suspect was traveling was fully green and that the deceased entered the intersection on a red light,” the statement said. “In addition, two other witnesses couldn’t give a clear account on the question of when the deceased started riding [into the intersection], and they can’t rule out the possibility that the deceased entered the intersection even before the traffic light in his direction turned green with the level [of certainty] required in a criminal trial.”
Moreover, the statement continued, some of the witnesses said that when the traffic light in Beck’s direction was still red, he was in front of the stop line rather than behind it, “and he began his ride from there (and as noted, not necessarily on a green light). We would also note that the claim that five eyewitnesses said the deceased rode on a green light and the suspect on a red light is incorrect. Only the deceased’s friend, who was riding alongside him, made this claim unequivocally.”
Given these conflicting stories, “It was impossible to rule out, to the level required in a criminal trial, which demands certainty beyond a reasonable doubt, that the suspect entered the intersection on a green light; thus it wouldn’t be right to put her on trial,” the statement concluded. “Moreover, it should be noted that the announcement of the closure of the case occurred 10 years ago, and no appeal was filed against the decision at the time, even though the period set by law for filing an appeal is 30 days from receipt of the announcement that a case was closed.”