Jailed son of city rabbi gets special treatment

He's serving assault term at Central Booking, not prison

explanations vary

September 15, 2005|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

When a Baltimore judge sentenced Moshe Khaver to five years in prison for nearly killing a boy over a marijuana debt, she said the son of a Park Heights rabbi was no different from violent drug dealers from Cherry Hill.

Yet the 19-year-old is being treated differently.

Khaver has served the first 10 months of his prison sentence not in a state facility but in the city's Central Booking and Intake Center, an often crowded facility that typically houses detainees after they are arrested.

There, Khaver has special privileges, such as occupying one of a dozen solitary cells, and more lenient visitation rules, according to internal records.

His mother brings him kosher meals every day, a prosecutor said.

"That's not the normal course of business," William J. Smith, commissioner of the state Division of Pretrial and Detention Services, said of Khaver's confinement conditions.

Yesterday, several people involved in the case gave varying explanations for the unusual treatment. Khaver's defense attorney said it is too dangerous for his client to be anywhere else.

A prison spokesman first said Khaver is where he is because he has special dietary needs, then said it is because he has a short sentence.

Internal records show that hours after Circuit Judge Kaye Allison sentenced Khaver to prison on Nov. 9, Central Booking's security chief ordered that Khaver be placed in protective custody and housed alone.

Two weeks later came an order that Khaver was not to be transferred to the state Division of Correction without the permission of Benjamin Brown, an assistant commissioner at the Division of Pretrial and Detention Services. Brown did not return calls seeking comment.

Guilty plea

Khaver, an admitted drug dealer, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault for using his father's Buick to run down a boy after a dispute over $20 worth of marijuana in May 2003.

A year after Khaver was charged, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., unaware of the criminal charges, appointed him to a state juvenile justice advisory council. Khaver violated his home detention order to attend his first council meeting.

Sander Goldberg, a Baltimore rabbi who recommended Khaver for the governor's council, gave the benediction at Ehrlich's swearing-in ceremony. Goldberg spoke on Khaver's behalf at his sentencing hearing and was among the first to visit him after the judge handed down the prison term.

Goldberg, a state tax court judge, said yesterday that he had "nothing whatsoever to do with where the permanent incarceration is. None of his advocates do."

It could not be learned yesterday how Khaver got special treatment.

Khaver, the son of Rabbi Reuben Khaver, said in court that he began using marijuana at the age of 13 and began selling it at age 15. He was 17 the night he ran down the boy who owed him money for drugs.

The victim, Eddie Massre, whose family lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., spent about five weeks in a coma. He suffered permanent injuries, the prosecutor said, including blindness in his right eye, loss of feeling in his right leg, facial scars, loss of memory and damage to his speech.

Allison sentenced Khaver to a prison term of five years in prison, the maximum allowed by his guilty plea to first-degree assault.

"To many people in this room, this situation is unique," the judge said at sentencing. "To this court, this situation happens too frequently. This case is not different from those this court sees every day: young men making very poor decisions in the course of drug transactions."

She noted that in this case, those involved were from Park Heights instead of Cherry Hill and the defendant used a car rather than a gun.

Khaver was ordered into the state Division of Correction, but he has yet to make it there.

Smith, the Division of Pretrial and Detention Services commissioner, said his division typically "gets rid of sentenced detainees" because Central Booking can quickly become crowded.

He said the facility sometimes houses people with "very low sentences" of six months or less.

Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said that of the 900 to 1,000 detainees at Central Booking yesterday, 46 were serving prison sentences.

He could not specify the lengths of those sentences but said it was "not unprecedented" for someone serving five years to be held there.

Earlier, Vernarelli had said that Khaver was being kept there because of his kosher diet. State prisons cannot provide daily kosher meals, he said.

Assistant State's Attorney Michelle Martin, who prosecuted Khaver, said Khaver's mother "brings him food every day," a situation that she said she found "a little odd."

`Not anything special'

Howard L. Cardin, Khaver's attorney, said his client is in lockdown 22 hours a day in a solitary cell at Central Booking because "I believe he is in danger." Cardin said Khaver's treatment is "not anything special."

Herbert Berry Jr., a labor representative for the Maryland Correctional Law Enforcement Union, said every state prison offers protective custody and kosher meals. He said he has never heard of someone with a five-year sentence being housed at Central Booking.

"This doesn't even sound possible to me," he said.

Sun staff writer Gus G. Sentementes contributed to this article.

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