Accused Brookline rabbi backs off plea deal, seeks jury trial

The Boston Globe reported today that a plea deal to resolve sexual abuse charges stemming from the alleged molestations of three former students of Brookline’s Maimonides School collapsed at the last minute when Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt decided that he would not plead guilty to the charges and would instead take his case to a jury.

With Levitt’s alleged victims prepared to read victim impact statements concerning allegations dating to the mid-1970s, Levitt’s attorney declared that although an agreement for a guilty plea had been reached, Levitt had changed his mind, the Globe reported.

The turnabout prompted harsh criticism of Levitt and his attorney, Scott Curtis, from Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol S. Ball, who pointed out that two of the alleged victims had traveled a considerable distance to Boston in anticipation of witnessing an admission of guilt by Levitt. “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.”

At another point during the hearing, Ball added that it was “the height of discourtesy” for Curtis not to inform prosecutors of Levitt’s change of heart in time to allow the alleged victims and family members to change their travel plans.

Levitt, asked outside the courtroom if he had been discourteous to his alleged victims with his last-minute change of heart, said, “The only victim here is me.”

Michael Brecher, one of the three former sixth-graders who has accused Levitt of abuse, said prosecutors told him that Levitt backed out of the plea agreement at the last minute after refusing to admit his guilt in open court.

“He couldn’t do what I have wanted him to do all along, which is to take responsibility for his actions,” Brecher said.

With a trial date set for May 14, Curtis said Levitt’s defense will be based on the fact that the allegations lodged against him are more than 35 years old.

Curtis has argued in previous court filings that the decades that have passed since Levitt was teaching religious studies at the Maimonides – he taught there for three years during the mid-1970s – have rendered the accusations against him “inherently unreliable.”

Deakin, the Suffolk prosecutor, has said it is important to pursue child sexual abuse accusations, even if they are decades old, in part to prevent perpetrators from offending again.

“One of the things we know about pedophilia is that it tends to be a chronic condition, especially if it’s not treated and even when it is treated,” Deakin said in a 2009 interview.

After leaving Massachusetts in 1980, Levitt eventually settled in Philadelphia, where he was subsequently charged with molesting three boys living in an Orthodox Jewish community.

In the first of those cases, Levitt was found not guilty. In the second case, he pleaded no contest and received a five-year sentence of probation. He was also cited for violating the terms of his probation by refusing sex offender treatment.

In the third case, the alleged victim withdrew his charges.

Levitt, who still lives in Philadelphia, was indicted in Boston two years ago after Brecher told Suffolk prosecutors that Levitt molested him when he was an 11-year-old patient at Children’s Hospital Boston and a second student said Levitt abused him in the shower of his Brighton home.

Under the plea deal, Levitt would have admitted that he molested all three boys, each of whom was 11 years old, during the 1975-76 school year. He would have served no jail time under the deal, victims were told, but would have received probation and been required to meet other conditions such as treatment for sex offenders.

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