A pale and disheveled Levi Aron entered Brooklyn Criminal Court Thursday afternoon to be arraigned on charges of murder in the first degree and kidnapping in the first degree in connection with the brutal killing of 8-year-old-Leiby Kletzky.
The defendant was taken into custody by NYPD early Wednesday morning for the killing of the Borough Park boy who got lost on his way home from day camp.
The case is being prosecuted by ADA and counsel to the Homicide Bureau, Julie Rendelman, and Unit Chief Linda Weinman, of the Crimes Against Children Bureau.
The massive security presence in the arraignment room included approximately two dozen Court Officers who secured the entrances to the courtroom and the door to the holding area. As the defendant entered the courtroom loud jeers and heckling by other detainees could be heard beyond the door. A hunched Aron appeared apprehensive as his eyes quickly scanned the packed audience and took his place next to his defense lawyers, where he pleaded not guilty.
Rendelman asked Judge William Miller to remand Aron to custody without bail based on the nature of the crime of smothering and dismembering the child. She also expressed concern about a possible flight risk, stating that Aron has “ties out of state” including Memphis.
Defense attorneys Pierre Bazile and Gerard Marrone consented to the remand request, but reserved the right to request bail at a later time. They applied for Aron to be psychologically evaluated to determine his cognitive capacities and further requested that Aron be placed under suicide watch in protective custody.
The results of the mental exam will take several weeks, and may be conducted at Kings County Hospital.
Defense attorneys Bazile and Marrone gave a brief statement to the press after the hearing, in which Bazile said, “We want to let the judicial system take its course.” Bazile and Marrone are private, not court-appointed, attorneys.
Defense counsel Gerard Marrone, who has handled other high-profile cases involving homicide charges, was tapped by Bazile to join the defense team. In a later phone interview Marrone explained to The Jewish Week, “All we are here to do is advise. We advise the client of his rights and he makes the decisions.” Aron has consented to the psychological exam, declined to speak before a Grand Jury, and has requested to be placed in protective custody.
“We have yet to see the confession [that Aron gave to NYPD],” said Marrone. It has appeared in various versions on the internet.
The prosecution has 15 days to give defense attorneys access to the original confession document, said Marrone, but he said he expects to see it in the next few days. “I certainly felt it was proper to see it,” he said. He also said that it remains to be seen whether Aron had the capacity to waive his Miranda rights. “It opens up many questions,” said Marrone.
When asked if Aron discussed the crime with him, or expressed any remorse, Marrone said, “It was not discussed. My conversation with him was limited.” Marrone said, “My job is to explain his rights.”
Aron is currently under suicide watch and protective custody at Riker’s Island. The next court date is July 28.