Menu JTA Search

U.S. teen sentenced to 24 years in Israel

JERUSALEM, Oct. 24 (JTA) — An Israeli court has given a 24-year prison sentence to a Maryland teen-ager who fled to Israel after a 1997 murder.

Sunday’s decision reflected an August plea bargain Samuel Sheinbein reached with prosecutors in which he admitted to murdering fellow Maryland teen Alfredo Tello Jr. with a friend, then dismembering and burning parts of the body.

The plea bargain angered U.S. prosecutors, who had demanded that Israel turn over Sheinbein. They have repeatedly said Sheinbein, 19, would have received a life sentence in the United States.

The jail term is the maximum sentence given in Israel to a juvenile offender.

Sheinbein’s sentence includes time already served, and he could be free in 14 years with good behavior.

Prosecutor Hadass Naor said Sheinbein would be eligible for 24 furloughs in six years.

Sheinbein fled to Israel days after Tello’s burned corpse was found in the garage of an unoccupied house in a Maryland suburb in September 1997.

Though he had never visited Israel before fleeing there, he claimed Israeli citizenship through his father, who was born in prestate Palestine.

Israeli courts upheld the claim and barred his extradition to the United States in accordance with existing Israeli law against handing over citizens who committed crimes abroad. The ruling led to a long extradition battle between Israel and the United States that strained political relations.

At the height of the dispute, some U.S. lawmakers had threatened to press Congress to cut Israel’s nearly $3 billion in annual aid if Sheinbein was not handed over.

The Sheinbein case spurred the Knesset to pass a law in April making it easier to extradite Israeli citizens charged with committing crimes abroad.

Under the new law, those who hold Israeli citizenship but are not residents of the country can be extradited, while residents will be tried in the Jewish state.

Sheinbein’s alleged co-conspirator, Aaron Benjamin Needle, hanged himself in prison in a Maryland prison in April 1998, just days before his trial was scheduled to begin.

NEXT STORY