Appeal to reopen case against violent bus driver

Please see here a list of posts relating to cases in which Honenu provided legal counsel to victims of antisemitic attacks in Jerusalem.

Honenu Attorney Chayim Bleicher; Photo credit: Honenu

Thursday, November 26, 2020, 10:32 When the case of an Egged bus driver who brutally assaulted a yeshiva student was closed without an investigation, Honenu Attorney Chayim Bleicher filed an appeal to reopen the case. The police did reopen the case and the driver was interrogated. However the case was closed again due to lack of evidence. Bleicher received the investigative material and in light of the findings, which include a prior complaint by a passenger against the driver for spitting at him, he filed a second appeal with the Appeals Department of the Attorney General’s office.

From the second appeal: “The suspect was investigated for this incident [assaulting a yeshiva student] and an additional prior incident [spitting at a passenger]. The investigation revealed that a complaint was filed against the suspect for cursing and spitting at an elderly man who pointed out that he should wear his mask on his face when he was driving the no. 57 bus on 10/09/2020. With regard to the spitting incident, the suspect claimed that the elderly man picked a fight with him, cursed him, told him repeatedly to put his mask on his face, and spat at him. ‘When I spat at him, he had already spat at me.’ With regard to the assault in the appeal, the suspect claimed that ‘I did not push him or do anything else…’” Later in the appeal there is a mention that during the interrogation, the driver admitted that “I told the other guy, who was next to the door, that I would summon the police and remove him from the bus because I didn’t want to continue driving.”

The second event, over which the first appeal was filed against the Egged bus driver on the no. 9 line in Jerusalem for assault on a yeshiva student, occurred approximately one month ago. The complaint states that the driver punched the student and attempted to physically throw him off the bus, because he was supposedly a friend of someone who was banging on the doors of the bus from outside and apparently also spat in the direction of the driver. Even though the student stressed to the driver that he had no connection to the man banging on the doors, the driver started to curse and assault him. Policemen who were summoned to the scene by the student took the details of the driver and instructed the student to file a complaint at the police station against the driver for assault.

In the second appeal, Bleicher wrote, “Strangely and patently inexplicably, a short time after the complaint was filed, the complainant was informed by the crime victim notification system that ‘a decision has been reached to close the case without a criminal investigation, on the grounds that: The circumstances of the matter, as a whole, are not suitable for opening an investigation.’”

Bleicher further described the unfolding of events and stated that “over the closing of the case, an appeal was filed by the undersigned, representing the appellant. Following the filing of the appeal, the case was reopened, and the suspect was interrogated regarding the charges. Recently, a decision was reached to close the case again due to lack of evidence. The undersigned requested the investigative material which he used as the basis of an appeal which is being filed on the decision to close the case.”

Bleicher justified the second appeal to the Attorney General’s office and claimed that the police were negligent in their investigation: “First of all, from the investigation it is apparent that two passengers complained about the violent conduct of the driver on different occasions, at different times and without the knowledge of each other’s complaints. It is therefore difficult to understand why the driver was not investigated after the first complaint. Moreover, when the second complaint was filed over severe violence against the same suspect, about a different incident and by different people, that should have set off alarm bells with the police. It is difficult to understand why the case was closed for a second time without investigating the suspect [over the second complaint] and had been reopened only after the first appeal was filed.

“Moreover, the case was closed again without testimony being taken from an eyewitness who reported to the policemen that the suspect had assaulted the appellant. It should be noted that the witness called the police and informed them on his own initiative. This indicates that according to the witness, the assault by the suspect on the appellant was significant. If it had not been, he would not have taken the trouble to stop and call 100 [emergency police number].

“The investigative material transferred to the undersigned does not include any of the video clips from any of the security cameras, and there is no mention of an investigator who verified with the Egged Company whether there were security cameras on the bus. The current evidence is in favor of the testimonies of the first complainant and the appellant. Concerning the spitting incident, the suspect explicitly admitted that he spat at the elderly complainant, but attempted to claim that it was in reaction to the same act on the part of the elderly complainant. Therefore the police have the key evidence which is not being denied at all, that the suspect spat at an elderly man when he was working in the capacity of a bus driver.”

In his letter, Bleicher demanded the following actions: “Reopening the case and having the suspect stand trial, in light of the existing evidence, for the two assaults attributed to the suspect. Alternatively, taking testimonies from the eyewitnesses and examining the security cameras of the bus, in order to gather additional evidence, so that the suspect may be brought to trial for the assault and the related violations.”

In conclusion, Bleicher wrote, “The complaint has been filed against the driver of a public ‘accordion bus’ [articulated bus], who at times is responsible for the lives of almost 100 people. One must not belittle the complaints of passengers about the violent and humiliating conduct of a driver that has characteristics of hate towards the passengers. These complaints constitute a clear warning sign calling to detain the suspect before disaster strikes.”

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