Levi Aron, 35, charged in the murder and kidnapping of eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky, was moved from Rikers Island to Bellevue Hospital prison ward for psychiatric evaluation, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections on Friday.
She said Aron will either stay at Bellevue until his next court date, set for July 28, or will be returned to Rikers Island when the tests have been completed.
A day earlier, a pale and disheveled Aron was in Brooklyn Criminal Court, hunched and in handcuffs, to be arraigned on charges of murder and kidnapping.
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 District Attorney has made this case a priority,” said Jerry Schmetterer, spokesman for DA Charles Hynes. 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. Aron appeared apprehensive as his eyes quickly scanned the packed audience. He 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, TN, where he formerly lived.
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, further requested that Aron be placed under suicide watch in protective custody.
The results of the mental exam will take approximately two weeks, when the Court will provide the results to both the prosecution and defense counsel.
Assistant Chief Walter Glowacz of the Department of Public Safety for the Courts said the reason for the high level of security is to maintain order in the corridors, “and to ensure safety in the courtroom for the attorneys, the audience, the court personnel, and for the defendant.” David Bookstaver, director of Communications for NYS Courts said, “the case is extremely emotional and there is an obligation on our part to make sure it’s safe.”
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 takes its course.”
Defense counsel Gerard Marrone said, “He’s remanded at this time to see what his psychological state is,” adding “we want to really get a handle on what we’re dealing with emotionally and psychologically.”
The Jewish Week asked whether Aron, allegedly an Orthodox Jew, who appeared in court without yarmulke, had been wearing one. Marrone said, “Not that we saw.”
When asked if his client had requested any clothing or religious articles while in detention, Marrone said no but, “I would hope that all of his religious observations are respected.”
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.”
Marrone also said that during their “brief” conversation Aron spoke in “a very low tone of voice” and was “dejected.” Asked if Aron had an opportunity to see his family or had requested to see family, Marrone said he had not made any such request.