The New York Criminal Law Blog

Levi Aron Takes Plea Deal for Murder of 8-Year-Old Leiby Kletzky

Levi Aron, 36, will be sentenced to 40 years to life for the kidnapping and murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, reports the New York Times. The plea bargain was offered by the Brooklyn District Attorney's office at the victim's family's request. Aron had previously faced a life sentence.

On July 11, 2011, Leiby walked home alone from day camp for the first time. His parents had previously walked him home and practiced the route. Leiby made a wrong turn and asked Aron for help. According to the Times, Aron told police that he promised to help the young boy find his way home.

Instead, he kidnapped Leiby and took him to an upstate wedding. He then brought him back his apartment in Kensington. Aron left Leiby alone in the apartment while he went to work. After fellow members of the Orthodox Jewish community began canvassing the neighborhood and posting up flyers, Aron panicked and smothered the child after drugging him.

A surveillance tape led police to Aron's home a day and a half after the boy disappeared. They found part of Leiby's remains in the freezer. The rest of the boy's body was found in a suitcase in a trash bin more than two miles away. Aron, who has a history of mental illness, originally confessed. He later pled not guilty.

According to the Times, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes previously vowed not to give any plea deal whatsoever to Levi Aron. After Leiby's parents expressed a desire to avoid a trial, Hynes reversed course. Either way, it probably won't make much difference. Even with good behavior, Aron's 40 years to life mean the earliest he could possibly get out would be in his seventies, if he survives that long in prison.

Nowadays, plea bargains are reached in the vast majority of cases. The decision to offer a plea bargain is influence by a number of factors, including:

  • Strength of the case
  • Severity of the crime
  • Desires of the victim and victim's family
  • Time-saving (especially for minor offenses)
  • Departmental guidelines
  • Sending a "message"

The final factor was what seemed to be originally influencing Hynes. No one wants to appear soft on child murderers. Also, punishing him to the fullest extent of the law sends the message to other child-murderers that they will be shown no mercy. Still, you can't blame Hynes for reversing course. The reality of the plea differs little from the possible life sentence Aron could have received. If the lack of a trial spares the family additional pain, the deal had to be made.

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