Plea bargain in Israel

Sheinbein: His term is not the same as Maryland justice, but it is the next best thing.

August 26, 1999

SAMUEL Sheinbein did not get away with the crime. His 1997 murder and dismemberment of a friend, Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr., in Montgomery County is not going unpunished.

It is regrettable and wrong that Sheinbein is not to be judged, sentenced and incarcerated under Maryland law. Nonetheless, the plea bargain to be heard in an Israeli court next Thursday represents good-faith efforts by Israeli prosecutors to make the best of a bad Israeli law and worse Israeli Supreme Court decision that prevented extradition to Maryland.

His plea bargain, if accepted by the Israeli court, means a sentence of 22 more years (two having been served), with possibility (but not certainty) of weekend release in four years and parole in 14 years. This is a harsh sentence for an Israeli youth. Sheinbein was 17 when he committed the crime. He will serve his time in a country not his own, where he does not understand the language, and where almost no one has sympathy for him.

A wrong law from Israel's past forbids extradition of an Israeli citizen. Sol Sheinbein was born in Palestine before independence and brought as a toddler to the United States. Affording this protection to him would be a stretch.

Israel's Supreme Court extended it to Sol's son Samuel, which strains credulity. Now, the parliament has revised the law so that, in the future, an Israeli resident abroad could be extradited. But real harm has been done.

Still, Samuel Sheinbein's likely sentence is no slap on the wrist. It could be no more severe were the victim Israeli. Sol Sheinbein is charged in Montgomery County for his role in Samuel's escape, although he stays beyond Maryland law in Israel, which is not the land of his choice or career. Nobody is getting away with anything.

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