In a stunning last-minute about-face, a Boston rabbi reversed his child sex abuse guilty plea after three former victims had traveled to face their molester and read impact statements. Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt decided not to plead guilty to charges stemming from allegations of child sex abuse on three then-boys from the mid-1970s, said The Globe. The men are all former students of Brookline’s Maimonides School.
Levitt decided at the last minute that he would rather take his case to a jury, despite that a guilty plea was agreed on. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol S. Ball condemned both Levitt and his lawyer, Scott Curtis, pointing out that two of the alleged victims had to travel a “considerable distance to Boston” in the hopes of seeing Levitt admit guilt, said The Boston Globe. “I would have hoped you or your client would have had the courtesy to let these people know before traveling to Boston,’’ Ball said, speaking to Curtis. “It’s like adding insult to injury,” she added, wrote The Globe. Ball later said that the move was “the height of discourtesy.’’
“Everybody gets testy about getting beaten up for something that is not fair,’’ Curtis said. “And he says this is not fair, so we’ll let a jury decide,” he told The Globe regarding Levitt’s desire to avoid jail, “protect his health,” and maintain his innocence, by changing his plea. When asked, outside of the courtroom, if he believed he was discourteous to the alleged victims, Levitt responded, “The only victim here is me,” The Globe reported.
A trial date is set for May 14 and Curtis said Levitt’s defense will rely on the age of the allegations, which are more than 35 years old, said The Globe. Curtis has used this tactic before with Levitt, arguing in earlier court filings that decades have elapsed since Levitt taught religious studies at Maimonides, where he taught for three years in the mid-1970s. According to Curtis, time has rendered the accusations against Levitt “inherently unreliable,” said The Globe.
Not everyone agrees. The Suffolk prosecutor discussed the importance of pursuing child sex abuse allegations, regardless of time lapse, to help prevent the abuse, noting that pedophiles tend to be chronic offenders regardless of treatment, said The Globe.
Michael Brecher, one of the alleged victims told The Globe, “He couldn’t do what I have wanted him to do all along, which is to take responsibility for his actions.” Levitt was indicted in Boston in 2009 after Brecher told Suffolk prosecutors that Levitt molested him when he was 11 and a patient at Children’s Hospital Boston; a second student said Levitt abused him in the shower of his home.
Meanwhile, when Levitt left Massachusetts in 1980 for Philadelphia, he was charged with molesting three boys who were living in an Orthodox Jewish community. Levitt was found not guilty in the first case, he pleaded no contest and received five years probation in the second case and was cited for violating the terms of his probation because he refused sex offender treatment, said The Globe. The alleged victim withdrew his charges in the third case.
This is just one of several child sex abuse cases that have rocked the Jewish and Orthodox Jewish communities in recent months. We just wrote about the arrest of 85 alleged child molesters in the past three years during an investigation of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn, New York’s Orthodox Jewish community. The initiative—Kol Tzedek, Hebrew for “voice of justice”—was launched by the Brooklyn DA’s office in 2009, and aims to coax child sexual abuse victims to come forward, despite pressure exerted by the Orthodox Jewish community that makes many reluctant to do so.
Since Kol Tzedek was launched, 117 alleged victims have come forward; almost all are male, and all but two accused perpetrators are men. To date, 38 cases have been closed; 14 abusers were sentenced to jail time for crimes including sex abuse, attempted kidnapping, and sodomy. Sentences ranged from one month to 10-to-20 years. The remainder have been put on probation, pleaded to minor charges, or saw their cases dismissed. Sadly, dismissals often came after victims and their parents bowed to immense community pressure to stop cooperating with law enforcement, a not uncommon occurrence in the Ultra-orthodox community where rabbis enforce a rule against reporting fellow Jews to secular authorities and where defying rabbis can result in families becoming outcasts.