Judge under attack for 'leniency' toward rapist

Judge Kapah under fire for giving light sentence to a man convicted of rape – and comments he made in another, bizarre case, 12 years ago.

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Gil Ronen,

Defendant in rape case (file)
Defendant in rape case (file)
Roni Schutzer / Flash 90

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Tzion Kapah is under fire from the Israeli feminist establishment in the media and Knesset for handing down a lenient sentence to a man convicted of rape, as part of a three-judge panel that included a female judge.

The feminist fire is directed almost exclusively at Kapah, because he also made certain remarks in the course of a trial he presided over 12 years ago, which the feminists have not forgotten or forgiven.

The current case involves a man called Yaniv Nahman and a woman who got into bed with him of her own free will. She knew him and had had sex with him in the past. The judges – Kapah, Miriam Diskin and Raanan Ben Yosef – sentenced Nahman Sunday to six months' public service work, as part of a plea bargain in which he admitted to rape and indecent assault of the complainant.

They noted in the sentence that while he had indeed abused the complainant, "the degree to which social values were breached is not at the high level. The defendant did carry out a sexual offense against the complainant, but other than the violence that is part of the sexual acts by their very nature, the complainant did not suffer physical damage and the use of physical force was not at a high level."

The judges also noted that "the complainant did not complain for years, and only turned to the police after the media published stories about the defendant's involvement in sexual offenses against many women, stories that did not find their way to the amended charge sheet or to the defendant's conviction."

A bizarre case

Meretz MK Michal Rozin lashed out at Kapah in an op-ed, and noted that the sentence appears to reflect the old definition of rape – before it was changed under pressure in 2001 – which involved use of force or threat of force by the rapist. "If we continue like this," she wrote, "we can just completely erase the possibility of rape between partners and go back to the days in which a woman turned over herself and her body, as property to its owner."

Kapah's defenders include noted defense attorney Tali Gottlieb, who said that the judges' sentence reflected their displeasure at the way the police had violated the defendant's rights, by making the allegations against him public, along with his name, and asking women to step up and complain against him.

Mostly, however, the attacks on Kapah rehash the criticism unleashed upon him in 2003, in a case that involved Doron Buhnik, a haircutter who was convicted of pedophilia. The case was based on the complaints filed by a teenager named Anastasia, who accused him of molesting her since she had been 10 years old. Anastasia was 14 at the time of the trial and Buhnik was 35.

At one point in the proceedings, apparently when considering whether to remand Buhnik to house arrest, Judge Kapah noted that "while the defendant may be a wolf, the girl is not a Little Red Riding Hood." The judge cited a social worker's report that described Anastasia's highly "liberal" sexual behavior.

These statements caused an outpouring of criticism on Kapah at the time.

Bizarrely, though, after Buhnik was freed from jail, Anastasia approached him and apologized, admitting publicly that she had falsely accused him of the sexual offenses. Some time later – the two married, and a 2014 documentary about them showed them living with their two children.