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Charges Against Israeli Journalist Dropped : Courts: Shoshana Maimon had been awaiting trial for arson and attempted murder. She is freed after new evidence comes to light.

July 18, 1993|MATHIS CHAZANOV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BEVERLY HILLS — A Beverly Hills Municipal Court judge dismissed charges of arson and attempted murder Thursday against a well-known Israeli journalist who was locked up for more than a month awaiting trial.

The action came after prosecutors said that new evidence made it impossible to convict Shoshana Maimon, whose palm print was found at the house where an early morning fire threatened the lives of David Cohen, her ex-lover, Nureet Granott, her former friend, and Granott's two children.

"Forget about these people," Judge Judith O. Stein told Maimon, 41. "Go on with your life."

The April 26 fire came two days before Maimon was to testify against Cohen in a separate case in which Cohen was accused of threatening her life, a charge that has since been dropped. The two had feuded for months, trading accusations of harassment in one of the most bitter domestic disputes to come to the attention of the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Stein hailed the outcome as a triumph of the judicial system. She praised the work of Detective Craig Stevens, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lisa Hart and Maimon's attorney, Bradley William Brunon.

But Maimon, dabbing her eyes with a tissue, asked, "How come I'm the victim for seven months and I became the prisoner?"

"Sometimes God puts as much pressure on us as we can stand," the judge replied.

"I have just one question," Maimon went on. "Who really set the fire?"

"Just be quiet," the judge said. "That's not before me. What's before me is the motion to dismiss."

While Hart would not say what led the prosecution to drop the case, she insisted that there was enough evidence to file the charges in the first place.

"But . . . it became impossible to prosecute because the people could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt," she said.

With bail set at $1 million, Maimon remained behind bars for 44 days as supporters tried to convince police and prosecutors that she had been railroaded. She was finally set free in early June, shortly after Stein reduced the bail to $25,000.

Detective Stevens declined to discuss the case, but Granott and Cohen said that Hart told them the prosecution's biggest problem was that Maimon once lived in the very room in Granott's house where the fire broke out.

They said they were told it would be easy work for the defense to suggest that the palm print on the louvered window was left from the days when Maimon lived there.

"It could have been fought very easily and put a lot of doubt in the minds of the jurors, so they couldn't win it," Granott said.

"I hope that everybody, especially Shosh, will start to go on with their lives. She should have started doing that a year ago," said Cohen, who was Maimon's partner in a clothing business and also dated her for several weeks.

But Maimon was still angry.

"He got what he wanted," she said after Stevens returned her passport, which had been seized to prevent possible flight after her release on bail. "He (Cohen) put me in jail and the charges against him were dropped. What I want to know is why the police don't investigate this fire."

Hart said that the investigation is continuing, but that she does not expect any more charges to be filed.

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