Levitt to be paroled after 7 1/2 years Maryland commission approves early release from 30-year term

November 21, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. and Joe Nawrozki | William F. Zorzi Jr. and Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writers

An article Saturday about former Old Court Savings and Loan President Jeffrey A. Levitt's parole inaccurately named Harry J. Taurig as being a state parole commissioner. Mr. Taurig was replaced on the parole commission in June by Patricia K. Cushwa, who voted for paroling Levitt.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Jeffrey A. Levitt, the savings and loan swindler who pleaded guilty to stealing $14.6 million from his own thrift, will be paroled in a year, after serving 7 1/2 years of his 30-year prison sentence.

The Maryland Parole Commission approved the early prison release of Levitt -- the 50-year-old former president of now-defunct Old Court Savings and Loan -- at a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, according to a statement released by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The vote was unanimous, with an abstention by one of seven commission members who once served with Levitt on the state Inmate Grievance Board in the early 1970s, said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a public safety spokesman.

Levitt will not be released until November 1993, after he has served more than 25 percent of his sentence of 30 years, three months and 28 days. So far, he has served 6 1/2 years -- about 22 percent -- of his 1986 sentence.

Levitt will be required to perform 2,000 hours of community service and pay all court-ordered restitution, according to the statement, which was not specific as to how much money that would be.

After a run on the Old Court started the collapse of the state's savings and loan industry in May 1985, the Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund Corp., a quasi-public state agency, became the receiver of Old Court and other thrifts.

MDIF was charged with selling the thrifts' assets and distributing the proceeds to creditors, including depositors.

Rabbi Mark G. Loeb of Beth El Congregation in Pikesville said yesterday that he visited with Levitt "a few weeks ago and he was hopeful. I feel the parole ruling is wise and compassionate, something whose time has come."

Rabbi Loeb, who said he has tended to the Levitt family's spiritual needs for 17 years, said Levitt "looks like himself. He lost weight and gained it back, just like most of us. He's been teaching in the prison . . . he's an educated person in a system that is devoid of educated people."

Others who were close to the Levitt case when it began unfolding seven years ago now appeared detached from the prisoner and the favorable ruling handed down by the state parole board. Those reached yesterday seemed reluctant to recall the past and the Old Court depositors who lost untold interest profits.

"It's past history to me, I don't want to talk about it," said Stephen H. Sachs, who as Maryland attorney general was going to prosecute Levitt before he pleaded guilty.

Baltimore attorney Wilbur D. Preston was appointed special counsel by then Gov. Harry R. Hughes to investigate the entire savings and loan crisis and make various recommendations to the governor and General Assembly.

"I did my job in 1985 and 1986," Mr. Preston said yesterday. "I'm not going to second guess the parole board."

Phyllis Brotman, who owns a local public relations firm and did some work for an Old Court subsidiary, said yesterday that the prison sentence served by Levitt was secondary to the anguish it caused his family.

"They paid the price and what happened to his wife was a tragedy," she said, referring to the death of Karol Levitt Aug.27, 1989.

"Of course," Mrs. Brotman added, "the depositors were equally devastated."

Levitt and his wife came to personify the greed of the 1980s because of their ostentatious lifestyle, much of which was paid for with money stolen from the thrift. That lifestyle included owning 18 cars, homes in Florida and Maryland and a general accumulation of material wealth, including a golf cart with a mock-Rolls Royce front end, and an $18,000 backyard putting green.

A parole commission hearing officer heard Levitt's parole request Nov. 6 at the Baltimore City Correctional Center, the minimum-security prison on Greenmount Avenue where he is now housed, and made a recommendation to the parole board. In a move reserved for high-profile cases, the full commission decided the matter, instead of just one commissioner.

Levitt has been infraction-free while during his time six years and 10 months at a variety of state prisons, correction officials have said.

Parole commission Chairman Paul J. Davis said the commission considered the Levitt request -- the first since he became eligible for parole -- because "we do it fairly often . . . in high-profile cases," he said.

In an interview two weeks ago, at the time of Levitt's hearing, Mr. Davis acknowledged that the commission's granting parole on an inmate's first request was somewhat of a rare move.

"We parole about one in three of the people we see, and of those who are paroled, about 15 percent are paroled between their initial eligibility [about 25 percent] and about 35 percent of their sentence," Mr. Davis said then.

A spokeswoman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer said the governor "apparently did not" have any prior knowledge of the parole.

In addition to Mr. Davis, other members of the parole commission are: Marjorie A. Jennings, Frank G. Pappas, Harry J. Taurig, Dan D. Zaccagnini, Michael Blount, and Maceo M. Williams, who abstained from voting Wednesday.

Levitt served with Mr. Williams on the state Inmate Grievance Commission after he was appointed by former Gov. Marvin Mandel in May 1971 and reappointed in May 1972.

Levitt was asked to resign that post, however, June 1973, apparently because of the poor quality of his work and because he allegedly mingled with inmates to solicit business for his private law practice. He was later disbarred after his 1986 convicted.

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