Olmert Rabbi Might Be Less Threatening Than We Thought

Talansky
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Morris Talansky, the beleaguered Long Island businessman currently testifying against the prime minister of Israel, may soon get some relief on a legal front closer to home. A misdemeanor assault case against the 75-year-old Talansky in Nassau County, where he allegedly assaulted his 84-year-old dentist, Leonard Barashick, last year, appears to be collapsing. A source familiar with the investigation says that “there do not appear to be any witnesses who corroborate what the dentist says," and the Nassau County district attorney may no longer have confidence in him.

Talansky has long maintained his innocence. “There were two people at the site of the incident who have given sworn affidavits that Morris Talansky never laid a hand on the dentist,” said a spokesman.

In an interview, Barashick talked repeatedly about the Battle of the Bulge (in which he said he'd participated), his desire to write his memoirs, and his unerring memory. About the alleged assault, he said, “I almost had to have my legs amputated. I was in the hospital two weeks.” Nassau County Police Lieutenant Kevin Smith offered a different version of events: “The dentist went on his own to the hospital several hours after the incident,” said Smith. “He was treated for contusions and didn’t check in.”

Talansky, who testified in May that he delivered envelopes of cash to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, faces a fifth day of cross-examination in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Attorneys for Olmert have portrayed Talansky as an elderly man with an unreliable memory who was pressured by Israeli police.

Talansky has acknowledged that he was “agitated” and disturbed by more than twenty hours of sometimes shouted, sometimes leading questions by police interrogators. He maintains that the $150,000 he gave to Olmert over fifteen years before he was prime minister helped finance political campaigns and personal expenses, and was not a bribe. —Steve Fishman

Related: Secret Tapes Show That L.I. Rabbi Who May Topple Olmert Has a Threatening History