Juvenile justice panel member goes to jail

City teen broke detention to go to advisory meeting

November 12, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

In September, Moshe Khaver pleaded guilty to first-degree assault for running down a boy over a dispute about $20 of marijuana. Less than a month later, unaware of the conviction, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed Khaver to serve on a state juvenile justice advisory council.

But to attend his first council meeting in October, the 18-year-old son of a Baltimore rabbi left his family's Park Heights house, apparently violating his court-ordered pretrial home detention.

Khaver won't be attending any more meetings of Maryland's Juvenile Justice Advisory Council. He was sentenced this week to five years in prison, despite an effort by his defense attorneys to use the governor's appointment as proof that Khaver had been rehabilitated.

"Sometimes when people commit crimes and then turn their life around, we put them on boards," said Ehrlich spokesman Greg Massoni. "Had we known of this latest crime, of course he would not have been put on a board."

During Tuesday's sentencing hearing, a prosecutor described Khaver as a drug dealer who has shown the ability to "manipulate people in the community."

The day after being sentenced to prison, Khaver was removed from his advisory position, said the Rev. James G. Kirk, chairman of the 12-member council. The council is overseen by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and has the job of doling out millions of dollars in federal money each year to local juvenile agencies.

"I had no clue that there was this violent side to him," Kirk said.

Khaver had been recommended for the position by Rabbi Sander Goldberg of Baltimore's Congregation Nachal Chochma. Goldberg, also a member of the council and a state tax court judge, testified on Khaver's behalf at the sentencing hearing. He could not be reached yesterday. Khaver was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, said his defense attorney, Howard L. Cardin.

The rabbi's recommendation, made over the summer, was forwarded to the governor's office of appointments. It was unclear yesterday whether the appointments office conducted a background check on Khaver.

LaWanda Edwards, a juvenile services spokeswoman, expressed surprise yesterday at Khaver's adult criminal record, although she said it is common for young people who have been part of the juvenile services system to serve on the council.

Federal law requires at least two council members to be youths who are or have been a part of the state's juvenile justice system, Kirk said. Kirk said he knew Khaver had been involved with juvenile services, but Kirk said he assumed that his criminal involvement was behind him and that he had turned his life around.

"He seemed like a very capable person," said Kirk, a youth advocate and pastor of the Harundale Presbyterian Church.

Khaver attended the council's October meeting, where Kirk said the young man asked good questions and was engaged in discussions about the juvenile facilities in the state.

But Assistant State's Attorney Michelle Grunwell said during Tuesday's sentencing that attending the council meeting was one of several instances when Khaver violated his pretrial conditions. She said he also tested positive in March for marijuana use.

Khaver said in court that he began using marijuana at the age of 13 and began selling the drug at 15. He said he "hit rock bottom" on May 17, 2003, the night that he ran down another boy who had failed to pay him for $20 worth of marijuana.

According to court documents, Eddie Massre and three teenage friends in a Jewish community of Northwest Baltimore had gotten a bag of marijuana from Khaver. They didn't pay him for it, and the three tussled with Khaver until he left.

Khaver, then 17, returned driving his father's Buick. He drove past the boys as they walked on Park Heights Avenue near Strathmore and made a slashing gesture across his throat.

Then he made a U-turn and accelerated at the group, hitting Massre and narrowly missing the others. Khaver fled the scene and waited nearly three weeks before turning himself in.

Massre, whose family lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., spent about five weeks in and out of a coma at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, prosecutors said. He has nerve damage to his right leg, blindness in one eye and lingering brain damage, his mother said during the sentencing hearing.

Wearing a yarmulke, the traditional Jewish head covering for men, Khaver sat with his head in his hands and his eyes downcast through much of the hearing. Orthodox Jews lined the benches behind him. His attorney, Cardin, said Khaver had strayed from his family's traditional ways but now regularly reads the Bible and the Talmud.

Before the judge sentenced him, Khaver stood to address Massre's mother.

"From the deepest part of my heart, I want to say how sorry I am," he said. Later, he asked the judge to have mercy on him, "like the Lord."

Circuit Court Judge Kaye Allison said Khaver's case was one of many she hears involving "young men making very poor decisions in the course of drug transactions." Except in this case, she said, the defendant was from Park Heights, not Cherry Hill, and used a car, not a gun.

Saying a sentence was as much about deterring others as it was about rehabilitation, Allison rejected Cardin's alternative sentencing plan, which would have kept the teenager out of prison. Cardin said he had hoped Khaver would have been able to perform community service, such as continuing his work with the advisory council.

Yesterday, Kirk recalled a brief conversation with Khaver during the October council meeting that puzzled him.

"He sort of hedged when I asked him what he wanted to do with his life," Kirk said. "Now I know why."

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