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Md. Teen Admits To Strangling

September 2, 1999

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ As part of a plea bargain, a Maryland teen-ager admitted in an Israeli court today that he strangled an acquaintance in 1997.

Under the deal presented to Tel Aviv District Court, the defendant, 19-year-old Samuel Sheinbein, would serve 24 years in an Israeli prison.

Sheinbein fled to Israel shortly after Alfred Tello Jr.’s burned and dismembered body was found in an empty garage near Sheinbein’s home in Aspen Hill, Md.

Claiming Israeli citizenship through his father, the U.S.-born Sheinbein successfully blocked his return to the United States, seeking refuge under a law that bars the extradition of Israeli citizens for trial abroad. Sheinbein had little connection to Israel, except for a few visits as a child.

The killing and Sheinbein’s flight raised a furor among Maryland’s Hispanic organizations and Latino community. U.S. authorities expressed outrage at Sheinbein’s manipulation of the system, and some U.S. lawmakers threatened to cut aid to Israel if Sheinbein was not returned.

Israel’s Justice Ministry fought all the way to the Supreme Court to get Sheinbein extradited, but the court upheld Sheinbein’s citizenship and set the stage for the trial to take place in Israel.

Sheinbein entered a not guilty plea, and the attorney general’s staff _ seeking to avoid a lengthy, costly trial that would likely further exacerbate U.S.-Israel relations _ began negotiating a plea bargain.

Under the deal, Sheinbein would serve 24 years for the Tello killing. Under Israeli law, he would be eligible for early release after 16, likely counting the two years he has already been in custody. He is also eligible for weekend furloughs after six years.

Israeli prosecutors defended the deal against criticism by their U.S. colleagues, saying a 24-year sentence is the longest that can be imposed in Israel on a minor. At the time of the killing, Sheinbein was 17.

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