ria, Sheinbein’s mother, was a juror.
During breaks in the Israeli hearings,
McCarthy recalls, “we’d all go to lunch. I
remember one time in the Tel Aviv Hilton, one day after court, having tea in
the lobby bar with Sol, Robert and Mrs.
Sheinbein. We sat for hours. There were
conversations and tears shed. There was
no animosity. We spoke as human beings.”
Among the attorneys hired to defend
Sheinbein was David Libai, a former
Israeli justice minister. “He did his job
for his client, but was very respectful of
what we were doing,” McCarthy says.
Eitan Maoz also served on the
defense team, and a decade and a half
later still recalls his first meeting with
Sam Sheinbein. “I was stunned,” Maoz
writes in an email last fall from Israel.
“…He looked like a very nice guy. Very
shy, very polite. His family, as well. I
couldn’t dream that such a boy [would]
commit such a horrible crime.”
Two courts ruled against Sheinbein.
Then the Israeli Supreme Court heard the
case, deciding in his favor in a 3-2 vote
on Feb. 25, 1999. With the chief justice
in sharp dissent, the majority asserted
that Sheinbein’s lack of ties to Israel did
not negate his claim of Israeli citizenship
through his father. Chief Justice Aharon
Barak worried that the majority ruling
“turns Israel into a sanctuary state” for
The Sheinbein case inspired sev-
eral articles in scholarly journals in this
country, including the Vanderbilt Jour-
nal of Transnational Law, the New Eng-
land Law Review and the American Uni-
versity International Law Review, which
called it “a model of complexity.”
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime
minister both then and now, declared
that Sheinbein’s attempt to avoid extra-
dition “has appalled the government and
the people of Israel.” So much so that the
Knesset, the country’s parliament, later
would enact legislation aimed at prevent-
ing individuals who committed heinous
crimes in other countries from finding a
legal refuge in Israel. But the law would
not be applied retroactively.
On Sept. 2, 1999, Samuel Sheinbein
pleaded guilty in Israel to 10 charges
related to the slaying of Freddy Tello Jr.
Earlier, Sheinbein had told his father
and his Israeli lawyer that Needle did the
actual killing—and that it was self-defense
after Tello tried to rob them—though he
confessed to dismembering and burning the body himself. But in entering his
guilty plea, he admitted to fatally choking
Tello with a rope and hitting him several
times with a sharp object.
The sentencing judge called the murder
and dismemberment “a shocking act of
desecration…too horrendous to describe.”
Irit Kohn, then the director of the