Supreme court upholds polygamous cult leader’s 30-year termJustices turn back appeal by polygamist Goel Ratzon, who had up to 32 ‘wives’ and fathered at least 49 children

Times of Israel/July 18, 2016

By Stuart Winner

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by a notorious cult leader against his 30-year sentence for multiple sex offenses.

Polygamist Goel Ratzon, who presented himself as a spiritual guru and cohabited with 21 women, with whom he fathered dozens of children, had appealed against his sentence and against his convictions.

The court had also ruled that Ratzon, 64 at the time of his conviction in 2014, must pay a total of NIS 330,000 ($85,480) in compensation to five women he sexually assaulted.

After the appeal was rejected, his son Yigal called for his father’s release, and accused the court of being racist.

“Believe me, many men have told me they want to be like my father, and that they envy him,” Yigal Ratzon said, according to Army Radio. “Let’s be honest, there isn’t always justice.”

“When they want to, they acquit, and when they want to, they convict,” he said and suggested the legal system was biased against Jews of eastern ethnic origin, known as Mizrahim. “I regret that I was born Mizrahi; let’s put it that way. There are those who are not Mizrahi and you know things go very well for them,.”

Ratzon was sentenced by the Tel Aviv District Court in October 2014, a month after being convicted of rape, sodomy, sex with a minor, indecent assault and fraud. He was acquitted of holding one of his victims in sexual slavery against her will.

His attorney, Shlomzion Mandelman, said she had hoped the Supreme Court would take into consideration that her client was cleared of a key charge of holding women in slavery and reduce his sentence.

“There was an acquittal for one of the charges and we regret that the sentence was not altered accordingly,” she said, according to the Hebrew-language new site Ynet. “He was acquitted of the main crime of holding under conditions of slavery. Goel is mostly disappointed that the sentence remains as it was. It is a severe punishment.”

Ratzon was discovered — as the result of a TV report and an ensuing police investigation — to be presiding over a harem in Tel Aviv of some 21 women, some of whom had entered into a relationship with him while still teenagers. He was arrested in 2010.

He is believed to have had up to 32 “wives” starting in 1991. He has also fathered at least 49 children, although some media sources estimate more than 60 children were involved in his cult.

Ratzon himself has maintained that he has done nothing wrong, and famously said after his arrest that “petting young girls wasn’t rape.”

Following Ratzon’s arrest, the fate of his former “wives” and offspring became an issue in itself, as the state found that the women and children were unable to support themselves and had been traumatized by their experiences. A 2011 Haaretz report noted that the group collectively had received millions of shekels in aid, but were still in “dire straits.”

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