AREA RESIDENTS are entitled to be more than a little angry about the plea agreement that Samuel Sheinbein, the Maryland teenager who murdered and dismembered a young man named Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr., reached with Israeli prosecutors. Mr. Sheinbein, assuming the court approves the deal, will be sentenced to 24 years in prison and be eligible for parole when he is 33. Having committed a particularly vicious crime in a jurisdiction in which he could have received a life sentence if convicted, he could well be free while still a relatively young man. In the meantime, he could be granted weekend furloughs.
What makes this matter so galling is the way Mr. Sheinbein's family was able to manipulate both the American and Israeli legal systems to ensure that Mr. Sheinbein received such light treatment. His father illegally spirited him out of this country, and Mr. Sheinbein then claimed citizenship in Israel -- a country in which he had never lived -- and protection under that country's law against extradition. (This law has subsequently been changed, although not retroactively.) The Israeli Supreme Court agreed. As a result, the jurisdiction where the crime took place can't get its hands on Mr. Sheinbein, leaving him to the mercies of a sentencing system whose punishments (quite tough by Israeli standards) do not approximate most Americans' idea of justice for a case such as this one. There is, of course, a theoretical possibility that a plea in this country would not have yielded a satisfying sentence or that a jury might have declined to convict him. But at least those decisions would not have the feel of a foreign justice system going easy on a crime that took place far from its shores.
Israel, of course, is entitled to have more liberal sentencing policies than Maryland, but the remoteness of such policies from events in Maryland is a good reason to have tried Mr. Sheinbein in the state whose laws he broke and whose citizen he murdered. While there is some comfort in the fact that he will be punished, the terms of his recommended sentence are a legitimate disappointment.