Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, the powerful Israeli rabbi, has faced major legal setbacks in court rulings on both sides of the Atlantic this week.
The decisions, one of which will send Pinto to an Israeli prison next month, come as the once-untouchable religious empire around Pinto continues to totter.
In Israel on January 5, the country’s Supreme Court rejected Pinto’s appeal in a longstanding bribery case, all but ensuring that Pinto will be required to report to prison next month to begin a year-long prison sentence.
Meanwhile, in New York, a State Supreme Court judge dismissed a 2014 libel suit brought in New York by Pinto’s charity against an Israeli journalist, Ilana Dayan, over an investigation into Pinto on Dayan’s Israeli news program, Uvda.
Pinto’s appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court came at the end of a lengthy legal process that culminated last May, when Pinto was sentenced to a year in prison following a plea agreement in which he admitted to bribing a top police official. Pinto had appealed the sentence to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in its January 5 ruling, denied to amend the sentence based on claims that Pinto was in ill health.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli Supreme Court Justice Menachem Mazuz had described the appeal as an attempt to “evade the agreements he had arrived at with the state in the context of a plea bargain.”
The New York ruling, handed down a day earlier, ends a $30 million lawsuit filed by Pinto’s charity, Mosdot Shuva Israel, and by Pinto’s top U.S. aide, Ben Zion Suky. The plaintiffs had claimed that a May 2014 episode of Uvda made false damaging statements about Suky and the charity.
In approving a motion to dismiss filed by Dayan, New York State Supreme Court judge Jennifer Schecter found that the court had no jurisdiction over the defendants, and that a New York court was the improper forum to hear the claims.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.