BROOKLYN SUPREME COURT — Levi Aron had his last day in court Wednesday, when he was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison for the gruesome murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, who lost his way home from school in Borough Park last summer.
"Levi Aron, taking advantage of the trust of an 8-year-old child, chose not to make Leiby safe, not to return him to his family," prosecutor Julie Rendelman told Supreme Court Justice Neil Firetog Wednesday. "Mr. Aron should be well aware that four decades from now when he stands before a parole board seeking release, his crime will not have been forgotten."
Aron, 37, pleaded guilty earlier this month to smothering Kletzky after luring him off a Borough Park street and holding the boy captive in his Kensington apartment in July of last year. The boy's dismembered remains were found in a suitcase in a Dumpster in Sunset Park, his severed feet in Aron's freezer.
"I’m happy that I don’t have to look at Levi Aron — I'm happy he's going to be in jail for the rest of his life," said Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who had attended court proceedings on behalf of the Kletzky family. "I think when a parole board looks at this crime — the details of what this person did — I don’t believe any parole board will ever let this guy go free."
For Brooklyn's tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community, the pain and rage over Kletzky's murder at the hands of one of their own has been palpable. Hundreds poured into Borough Park to search for the boy when he went missing last July, and thousands of weeping mourners flooded the streets for his funeral.
Defense attorney Howard Greenberg said he feared that same rage might spell an early death for his client in prison, where Aron has been held in protective custody since his arrest last summer.
"If he's not protected while he's in jail he'll be murdered," Greenberg told reporters outside the courtroom, after the judge granted his request to extend Aron's protective custody. "His sentence is 40 years, not death."
The guilty plea was part of a deal intended to spare Kletzky's grieving parents the horrors of a trial, which would have likely included grisly details of their son's final hours, Hikind said.
"They wanted this," Hikind told reporters outside the courtroom. "The last thing they wanted was to go through a trial of a week or two weeks — this was hard enough for them."
Although Aron confessed the slaying to police, he initially pleaded not guilty. His legal team had hoped to pursue an insanity plea but warmed to a deal after a court-appointed psychologist found Aron fit for trial.
According to the terms of the deal, Aron would become eligible for parole in 2051, at the age of 77. But Hikind said he's confident Aron will die behind bars.
"This was a person who worked in the community. I saw him in that store on Church Avenue, and I never thought twice about him," Hikind said. "He should spend the rest of his life in prison, and I'm sure he will."