BEVERLY HILLS — Soon after Shoshana Maimon flew off to Israel, she learned that David Cohen, an ex-lover and former business associate, was not only dating her friend Nureet Granott but also sharing Granott's home in Beverly Hills, where Maimon and her daughter once rented a room.
That was last summer. Now, Maimon, a well-known Israeli journalist who formerly wrote for Tel Aviv's largest paper, is in the Los Angeles County Jail, unable to make bail on charges of arson and four counts of attempted murder in connection with a fire at Granott's house.
With headlines about her plight plastered across the front pages back home, Maimon, 41, has rallied her friends in Southern California's Israeli community, from movie director Boaz Davidson to matchmaker Helena Amram.
Meanwhile, the names of all involved have become well known at the Beverly Hills Police Department, where Lt. Frank Salcido said, "We've had a lot of domestic disputes . . . but I don't believe in recent history we've had any that reached this level."
At a brief hearing Wednesday in Beverly Hills Municipal Court, a preliminary hearing was scheduled for June 9, when prosecutors will present their evidence against Maimon.
Maimon's friends insist she is innocent, framed by the diabolical schemes of her young ex-lover. Cohen, they contend, has managed to get the police and the district attorney's office on his side long enough to keep her behind bars for a month--and to discredit her as a witness in a separate case in which Cohen was accused of threatening Maimon's life.
Cohen, 28, denies everything. It is he and Granott who are the victims, he said, targeted by Maimon with a barrage of defamatory allegations, hostile fax messages and angry telephone calls, and finally, the attempt to burn their house down.
"She was jealous, obsessive and crazy," Granott said. "I couldn't believe anyone could act up that way. Even a 10-year-old wouldn't do that."
"Shosh" Maimon and "Duddi" Cohen met in the fall of 1991 when he answered an ad she placed in a Hebrew-language newspaper to sell her car. Cohen was a diamond-setter who had come to America to start a new life.
Despite the difference in ages, they had something in common as strangers in a strange land.
"He was new, I was new. We didn't know the freeways," Maimon said in a call from a prisoner's lounge at the Sybil Brand Institute. "Like new immigrants, we became friends; we helped each other."
He invited her to dinner. They became partners in a clothing business, and soon began mixing pleasure with business.
They dated for four months, according to her, or three weeks, according to him. They remained friends for a while thereafter.
But problems began after Maimon returned to Los Angeles last fall after a three-month visit to Israel. On 11 occasions over several months, Maimon complained to the Beverly Hills police that Cohen was harassing her, with tactics ranging from anonymous late-night telephone calls to glue in her door locks, holes in her car tires and burglary. When someone threw a rock through her window, she saw Cohen flee the premises, she told police.
The list of charges and counter-charges goes on and on. Maimon says Cohen arranged for her telephone message service to be disconnected; he says she did the same to him. She says he sent a picture of her daughter to the girl's grandparents in Israel, defaced with swastikas and threats; Granott said Maimon did the same with one of her two daughters.
Earlier this year, Maimon was charged with passing bad checks, something that she blames on Cohen's finagling.
Cohen and Maimon tangled in small claims court over the consequences of a car sale. She wanted to know where the money went; he said he used it to pay her parking tickets.
Eventually, she won a restraining order against him; he won one against her.
Then they met in a hallway at the Beverly Hills court building on March 2.
According to Cohen, he was merely taking Maimon's picture as proof of service of a summons. He did not realize that the restraining order, which called on him to stay at least 100 yards away from her, applied in the courthouse, he said.
Maimon ran, crying, into a courtroom, where she alerted a Beverly Hills detective who was there on another case.
Sheriff's deputies nabbed Cohen in the hallway. When the officers found an awl in his pocket, he was charged with stalking, making terrorist threats, carrying a concealed "dirk or dagger," and larceny in connection with an earlier break-in at Maimon's apartment.
He said he used the tool to get his car started, but after a preliminary hearing, he was bound over for trial in Santa Monica Superior Court. Arraignment was set for April 28.
Two days before that hearing, in the early morning, someone tried to set fire to Nureet Granott's house, on a quiet street of relatively modest homes south of Wilshire Boulevard.