MIAMI HERALD, Thursday, December 13, 2001.

Maximum sentence is sought for rabbi in Internet sex case


A former Boca Raton rabbi who pleaded guilty to prowling the Internet in search of teenage boys for sex could face up to 60 years in prison if federal prosecutors get their way in court next week.

``[Jerrold] Levy is more than a child molester conspiring to have sex with minors,'' wrote U.S. federal prosecutor Lothrop Morris. ``He is a skilled predator who uses his knowledge of human frailty to sexually abuse and exploit minor victims.

``His punishment should be sufficiently severe to deter other United States citizens who, like Levy, choose to sexually abuse and exploit the young and the vulnerable.''

In a 29-page motion filed Dec. 6, Morris argued for a tough sentence that would send a message to other sexual predators. He revealed new details about Levy's behavior, saying the former associate rabbi at Temple Beth El spent hours in sex chat rooms exchanging lurid e-mail messages with young men nationwide, using the Internet name ``CoachBoca.'' He is alleged to have had unprotected sex with a Wellington 14-year-old in the back of his black Toyota.

Court filings say that Levy, 59, chatted online with two 15-year-olds from Leawood, Kan., and Amelia, La., asking for nude photos and whether the boys had been circumcised.

The August arrest shocked one of the region's largest Reform Jewish congregations, but many temple members have supported Levy. Dozens of letters on his behalf will be presented at his Dec. 20 sentencing, said Ira Loewy, Levy's defense attorney.

``Jerry is not a pedophile. He's not a danger to anyone. He's accepted responsibility for his actions and wants help,'' he said.

Loewy said he will ask the court to sentence Levy to a sexual-offender treatment program in Butner, N.C.

However, prosecutors say a hefty sentence is warranted.

``Levy intentionally selected vulnerable minor victims who were emotionally immature and confused about their sexual orientation and identities,'' Morris wrote.

``I am astounded by the comments the prosecutor is making and their calling him a predator,'' said Stuart Grossman, an attorney representing the temple. ``They're looking at sending him away for the rest of his life as an example, and I don't know how they can say he is incapable of contributing to society.''

Levy pleaded guilty Aug. 21 to two counts of using the Internet to solicit sex from minors and e-mailing child pornography videos. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop four child pornography charges against Levy. They also agreed not to argue for the maximum penalty, but the new evidence changed that stance.

Cite as:
(File prepared 16 December 2001)