Six months after he was acquitted of murdering Matti Baranovski, Dan Weiz has returned from Israel with a message for the people of Toronto -- "I'm not that killer they read about". And Weiz told The Sun in an exclusive interview yesterday he's suing the Toronto Police because "I spent four years in jail for something I didn't do and I want the police to tell me why".
Daniel Weiz, 23, left Canada for his native Israel two weeks after he was exonerated on July 23, 2003. A jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder in the Nov. 14, 1999 kicking death of [Dimitri] Matti Baranovski, 15, in G. Ross Lord Park. Meir Mariani and Lee Cochrane were convicted and are serving 10-year sentences.
"I have nothing to say (about Mariani and Cochrane)," he said.
In July, he was "angry at the police," yearning for home and a plan to resume his career in the Israeli army. Before his arrest, he was on track to become a staff-sergeant. But 10 days after he arrived in Tel Aviv, he was told it was too late.
The Israeli army, he said, told him that "to have a guy who missed four years come back and give him a weapon and tell him to go continue fighting endangers his life and fellow soldiers."
His career dreams shattered, he has decided to continue his education here.
Noting that time heals all wounds, Weiz said the years in jail robbed him of his Hebrew language skills and he feels more comfortable resuming studies in Canada.
He first moved here in 1993 and spent his teenage years in Toronto.
First, he'll finish high school and then decide his direction.
But though he seems to be finally getting his life on track, Weiz still has nightmares -- about jail. He is "afraid to go to sleep until very late so the morning will come quicker."
He said the first jail in Israel featured meals served on bug-covered floors. Here, jail meant protective custody from death threats, barely any fresh air, eating next to a toilet with three men squeezed into a cell built for one. He said he felt "helpless" and branded it "hell" and "inhumane" because "the fact that I was innocent made it 10 times harder."
His plane arrived here at 6 a.m. Wednesday, and he was met with a temperature difference of 51C -- and he had no winter coat. But he has family support, including his dad and uncles, who are "happy" he's back and had wanted him to stay here.
This trip back was radically different from the one he took after he waived his extradition in October 2000 and flew back for 12 hours handcuffed and escorted by two Toronto cops. He said he decided then to "come back for them to hear me out, to prove I'm innocent, that I had nothing to do with it."
In his first appearance at the packed court, he "felt this chill going up and down my spine." And it was when they "locked the cell door ... that reality set in."
His lawyer Marie Henein said because Cochrane and Mariani were youths Weiz's picture became "the face of this crime."
And it's been everywhere, for years. Though he's uncomfortable with all eyes on him, Weiz's post-acquittal experience with the public in Toronto was positive. He said strangers shook his hand and one woman gave him a hug and a kiss in the middle of a mall.
"I just want people to get to know me better and know I'm not the person they thought I was."
Weiz's $9-million lawsuit against the two investigating detectives -- alleging "Tunnel Vision" and that he was wrongly charged -- was launched in October. A statement of defence has not yet been filed with the court.
The Federal government released the Report on the Prevention of Miscarriages of Justice. This should be required reading for every prosecutor, cop, and criminal defence lawyer in the country. Federal prosecutor's report 2005
TORONTO - A 19-year-old Israeli soldier wanted in the beating death of 15-year-old Matti Baranovski was arrested in Israel last Sunday.
Daniel Weiz was taken into custody by military police at Canada's request as he was returning to his army unit, and handed over to civilian authorities in Jerusalem. He was scheduled to make a court appearance this past Tuesday, at which prosecutors were planning to ask that he be held for 45 days pending an extradition request.
Toronto police have charged Weiz with second-degree murder in connection with Dmitri Baranovski's Nov. 14 swarming and murder.
Weiz's lawyer has said she will oppose both his arrest and his extradition, and says he denies involvement in the crime, saying he's "completely amazed" that he's being linked to it.
Weiz did not escape from Canada and made no attempt to hide in Israel, his lawyer said.
Toronto police say they will travel to Israel as soon as an extradition order is issued by Canadian authorities. But local police officers were believed to be on their way to Jerusalem as of last Monday.
As The CJN went to press Monday morning, Canada had not yet filed a formal request to have Weiz extradited.
The process is a long and bureaucratic one. The attorney general of Ontario must ask the federal justice minister to make the request. Once the justice minister approves the request for extradition, it is forwarded to his or her counterpart in Israel, who forwards the file to the attorney general.
The Israeli courts then make the decision, after reviewing evidence presented by Toronto police.
A recently amended law in Israel states that an Israeli citizen and resident may be tried in a foreign country, as long as the other country agrees the suspect would serve his sentence in Israel if convicted.
Israeli Justice Ministry officials said Weiz would not be extradited without such a commitment from Canada. A source in the public prosecutor's office told the Ha'aretz daily that if Weiz is found guilty, Canadian authorities "must" send him back to Israel.
Toronto police are hoping Weiz will return to Canada voluntarily, in which case detectives would fly to Israel immediately to bring him back.
Officials in this country have said Weiz moved easily between Canada and Israel because he is an Israeli citizen and a landed Canadian immigrant. They also say he was visiting his father in Toronto at the time Baranovski was beaten and kicked to death. His mother lives in Tel Aviv.
The Jerusalem Post, however, reported over the weekend that Weiz was back with his army unit at the time of Baranovski's death.
Earlier this year in Canada, Weiz was charged with various offences, including two separate counts of assault. He was sentenced to two, 14-day jail terms. He was also barred from owning a weapon for 10 years.
As a landed immigrant with a criminal record, Weiz should have been deported from Canada, but somehow slipped through the cracks, immigration officials conceded last week.
Weiz had attended the same school as Dmitri Baranovski did, Northview Heights Secondary School, but dropped out two years ago.
Also last weekend, Toronto police arrested a fourth suspect in the Baranovski slaying, 19-year-old Michael Issariotis. He was remanded into custody and was scheduled to appear for a bail hearing Dec. 22, along with the two 16-year-olds arrested earlier this month, whose identities cannot be revealed [Meir Mariani and Lee Cochrane] under the Young Offenders Act.
Issariotis had pleaded guilty on Dec. 8 to one count of breaking and entering, and received a suspended sentence and probation for two years. He had previously been charged with several offences, including assault.
During the visit to Toronto earlier this month of Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel's public security minister, Canadian Jewish Congress raised the question of an Israeli citizen suspected of having taken part in Baranovski's beating death.
Ben-Ami asked for the Israeli's name, but at the time, it had not been released, Congress president Moshe Ronen said.
Ben-Ami's response was, "This is terrible tragedy. We will work with [Israeli Justice Minister Yossi] Beilin."
Ronen said Ben-Ami was ready to block entry into Israel of the suspect, and they also discussed the possibility of extraditing an Israeli to Canada for trial.
Weiz was away without leave from his army unit at the time of the murder, Ronen added.
Ronen said he has it on "good authority" that Weiz was AWOL. "He had a leave of absence, which he extended at his own pleasure."
Ronen said that shortly after Dmitri Baranovski's death, Weiz presented himself at Israel's consulate in Toronto, admitted that he was ready to face justice for being AWOL, and asked for necessary papers. He filled out the forms and flew to Israel on Nov. 21.