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A Maryland man admitted today in an Israeli court that he strangled an acquaintance in 1997.

Under a plea deal presented to Tel Aviv District Court, Samuel Sheinbein, 19, would serve 24 years in an Israeli prison.

Sheinbein fled to Israel shortly after Alfred Tello Jr.'s burned and dismembered body was found in a garage near Sheinbein's home in Aspen Hill, Md.

Claiming Israeli citizenship through his father, the U.S.-born Sheinbein successfully blocked his return to the United States, seeking refuge under a law that bars the extradition of Israeli citizens for trial abroad.

Sheinbein had entered a not guilty plea, and the attorney general's staff -- seeking to avoid a lengthy, costly trial -- began negotiating a plea bargain.

Under the deal, Sheinbein would get 24 years in prison. Under Israeli law, he would be eligible for early release after 16 years. He also would be eligible for weekend passes after six years.

Israeli prosecutors defended the deal against criticism by their U.S. colleagues, saying a 24-year sentence is the longest that can be imposed in Israel on a minor.

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