Pros­e­cu­tion: Close hiker death case

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By YONAH JEREMY BOB

The state pros­e­cu­tion has asked the High Court of Jus­tice to re-close the probe into the 2014 death of an Amer­i­can hiker, af­ter re­ceiv­ing tes­ti­mony which the court said it will col­lect from one of the wit­nesses.

Ac­cord­ing to the po­lice in­ter­ro­ga­tion, Mayer Horowitz re­it­er­ated some state­ments which sup­port bring­ing the case to trial, but then ap­peared to re­tract sig­nif­i­cant por­tions of his tes­ti­mony.

The homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­lated to the un­ex­plained death of Ariel New­man, 18, a stu­dent from Great Neck, New York, dur­ing a hike in the Judean Desert on Septem­ber 10, 2014 was noted as neg­li­gent. It cen­tered on for­mer of­fi­cials at the now-de­funct Mechi­nat Yeud pro­gram for Di­as­pora youth.

Fol­low­ing pre­vi­ous re­ports in The Jerusalem Post, Deputy Chief Pros­e­cu­tor for Crim­i­nal Af­fairs Shlomo (Mumi) Lem­berger or­dered po­lice to re­open their in­ves­ti­ga­tion twice to ad­dress new ev­i­dence brought for­ward in re­ports.

How­ever, Lem­berger still stuck to the same fi­nal de­ci­sion to close the case in De­cem­ber, lead­ing the hiker’s fam­ily to file a pe­ti­tion to the High Court.

On Oc­to­ber 7, the High Court told the pros­e­cu­tion to re­open the case a third time to check new tes­ti­mony by Horowitz.

In his Oc­to­ber 18 tes­ti­mony, he ini­tially re­it­er­ated state­ments he made in a June af­fi­davit that Mechi­nat Yeud’s hik­ing guide had re­jected New­man’s plea to stop hik­ing and get into a ve­hi­cle. New­man was con­cerned that he might not be able to fin­ish the hike.

How­ever, Horowitz backed off when po­lice asked him about con­tra­dic­tory de­tails be­tween his re­cent ac­cu­sa­tions, and ini­tial tes­ti­mony he made to po­lice in 2015 where he made no al­le­ga­tions against the guide. He was un­sure which rec­ol­lec­tion was bet­ter, and he said it was pos­si­ble that he had been in­flu­enced by nar­ra­tives oth­ers had told him. He also claims that po­lice in 2015 had failed to ask him im­por­tant ques­tions.

The New­man fam­ily al­leged since that the po­lice were slow and neg­li­gent in prob­ing the in­ci­dent.

Fur­ther­more, the pros­e­cu­tion said that even if Horowitz had not re­tracted his 2018 al­le­ga­tions, there would be prob­lems with prov­ing a case of neg­li­gent homi­cide.

New­man fam­ily lawyer, Amos Fried, re­sponded to the pros­e­cu­tion’s lat­est re­quest to the High Court to close the case, say­ing they had, “wished to be­lieve” that the High Court’s or­der to re­open the case “would serve as a spring­board for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing a thor­ough in­ter­ro­ga­tion” of the driver whose ve­hi­cle New­man wanted to en­ter so he could rest.

Fried said the driver “to this day has never been sum­moned for ques­tion­ing by the po­lice, whether as a wit­ness or a sus­pect” and that the need for his “in­volve­ment in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is cru­cial,” since Mayer also de­scribed in de­tail the crit­i­cal mo­ment when Ariel de­manded to end the hike and re­turn” to the car.

The New­man fam­ily’s lawyer said that the rev­e­la­tion left no room for doubt that the driver had heard “Ariel’s des­per­ate pleas and in fact found them com­pelling enough to ex­press his con­sent to oblige.”

Fried said that the con­tra­dic­tions be­tween Horowitz’s state­ments were “in­con­se­quen­tial,” ac­cused the state pros­e­cu­tion of bias against the case and said he hoped the High Court would force it to ques­tion the driver.

The High Court is ex­pected to ac­cept the pros­e­cu­tion’s re­quest to close the case as even when it or­dered the case re­opened, it had pushed the New­man’s hard about why it should not just de­fer to the pros­e­cu­tion’s dis­cre­tion. The High Court ap­peared ready to ac­cept what­ever fi­nal de­ci­sion the pros­e­cu­tion would come back with af­ter re­view­ing the new ev­i­dence on Oc­to­ber 7.

At the time of the reopen­ing of the case, Ariel’s fa­ther, Mark, told the Post, “We hope and pray that the in­dif­fer­ent Is­raeli pros­e­cu­tors do not yet once again sum­mar­ily dis­miss the case af­ter hear­ing Mayer Horowitz’s ex­plo­sive tes­ti­mony” that the driver of the car ac­com­pa­ny­ing the hike heard Ariel cry out for his life and agreed to take him back to safety, but was over­ruled by the hik­ing guide.


MARK AND ELLEN NEW­MAN with Ariel at his high school grad­u­a­tion a few months be­fore his death.

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