Jeffrey A. Levitt is scheduled to appear in Baltimore Circuit Court this morning and is expected to plead guilty to charges that as president of Old Court Savings & Loan Association he embezzled and misappropriated millions of dollars from the thrift, according to a state source.
Officials connected with the case cautioned that Levitt's actions are unpredictable and pointed to the breakdown of a plea bargain process earlier this month. But one state source said Levitt's attorneys have reported that he plans to plead guilty at the hearing before Circuit Court Judge Edward J. Angeletti.
Attempts to reach William Hundley, one of Levitt's attorneys, for details about a plea were unsuccessful. Another attorney, Paul Mark Sandler, refused to comment.
Levitt's scheduled appearance in Baltimore Circuit Court is for an unusual second arraignment hearing. He has already pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges in an earlier arraignment hearing. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 245 years in prison.
Less than two weeks ago, Levitt rejected a plea agreement with the state under which he would have pleaded guilty to 25 counts of embezzling and misappropriating $14.6 million in depositors' funds. Reports of mismanagement at Old Court, the now defunct Baltimore thrift, sparked a run by depositors last year that led to the crisis in Maryland's $9 billion savings and loan industry.
Levitt was scheduled to go on trial June 2 after rejecting the plea arrangement, in which he would have agreed to cooperate with state prosecutors in their criminal investigation of other persons associated with the thrift and make restitution to the state from personal and family assets. In return, the state would have recommended that Levitt receive a prison sentence of 12 to 20 years, the exact term to be left to the discretion of the judge, and would have been eligible for parole after serving one third of his term.
If Levitt pleads guilty without a plea arrangement, he could face a much longer sentence.
Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs yesterday confirmed that Levitt is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow, but he would not comment on a possible guilty plea. Asked whether Levitt's trial is still scheduled for June 2, Sachs said, "It is today."
Sources knowledgeable about the case have noted that if Levitt pleads guilty in the criminal case, the state cannot recover any of the funds owned by Levitt's wife or two sons, who are not implicated in that case. Sources said state officials do not believe Levitt himself has the $14.6 million the state is seeking to recover in the criminal case.
Negotiations on the earlier plea agreement apparently broke down because of disagreements related to parallel talks on an out-of-court settlement of a $200 million civil suit brought by Maryland officials against Levitt and others associated with his Baltimore thrift.
Levitt, according to sources familiar with the criminal and civil negotiations, had to link the two negotiations and wanted assurances that if he pleaded guilty and helped prosecutors, his wife Karol would be allowed to keep the couple's Lutherville home, valued at more than $400,000, and retain some of the assets she inherited from her parents, estimated to be worth several million dollars. Karol Levitt is one of about two dozen defendants in the civil suit, in which negotiations have broken off.
Since Jan. 30, Levitt has been serving an 18-month sentence for violating a judge's order limiting his personal spending. The limit was imposed on Levitt and his wife at the request of the state, which sought to preserve the couple's assets pending a resolution of the $200 million civil suit.