FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA – A privileged Illinois man who fled after running down two British businessmen in his speeding Porsche avoided prison Friday and will instead serve out a 2-year sentence at a luxury oceanfront condo.
Ryan LeVin, 36, will be on house arrest at one of his parents’ two condos at the Point of Americas on Fort Lauderdale Beach – less than two miles from where he careened into the British visitors as they walked to their hotel two years ago. The house confinement will be followed by 10 years of probation.
LeVin, who hails from a prominent Chicago family, worked out a deal to pay the victims’ families an undisclosed sum.
The widows supported the sentence, and their attorneys collected checks from LeVin immediately after the Friday morning hearing, where he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal accident and two counts of vehicular homicide. LeVin spoke only at the judge’s prodding and offered no apology.
Afterward, his lawyer, David Bogenschutz, requested the return of LeVin’s $120,000 Porsche 911 Turbo that has been impounded since the Feb. 13, 2009 hit-and-run.
Craig Elford, 39, and Kenneth Watkinson, 48, who were in town recruiting employees for their pharmaceutical company, were killed about 2:30 a.m., when LeVin’s Porsche jumped the curb on State Road A1A, and struck the men from behind, just steps from their hotel.
The damaged vehicle was abandoned on an Interstate 595 ramp.
“I think he hardly bought his way out of this,” Bogenschutz said after the court hearing. “We have two victims who have an absolute say in what should happen in their case. All the judge did was follow the law.”
Sentencing guidelines called for 20 to 45 years in prison, and prosecutor Stefanie Newman asked for 10 years.
“He needs to go to prison,” Newman said in court. “He needs to be penalized for his actions.”
In imposing the lighter sentence, Broward Circuit Judge Barbara McCarthy said, “The need for restitution does outweigh the need for prison.”
Both widows wrote letters to the judge, describing the “financial hardship” they’ve suffered since losing their husbands, who were the sole earners of their families. Watkinson left behind a wife, Kirsty, two sons, 5 and 21, and an 18-year-old daughter. Elford and his wife, Claire, had two young daughters.
The widows agreed to LeVin staying out of prison with certain conditions, including immediate payment to settle a civil wrongful death lawsuit they filed against him.
“We have been living in uncertainty and financial need,” Kirsty Watkinson wrote. “We need closure so we can start to move on with our lives.”
Claire Elford said she had “lost all financial protection and security.”
“My girls and I need closure,” she wrote. “We need security both emotionally and financially.”
In pressing for prison, the prosecutor gave the judge four photos of the victims’ mangled bodies. “The court, in making its decision, needs to see how these men were left to die on the side of the road,” Newman said.
“These pictures are horrific,” McCarthy said. “And that is an understatement.”
LeVin initially declined to speak in court. “I would like to hear something from him,” the judge said.
She then instructed LeVin to look at the photos, spit out his chewing gum and make a statement.
Clearly nervous, his face red and glistening with sweat, LeVin said
he was ashamed and tortured, but the words, “I’m sorry,” did not pass
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about
this,” he said.”I feel complete shame and compassion for the victims…my
heart goes out to them. I would just like to say it’s a nightmare.”
Before Friday, LeVin had denied driving the Porsche that night, pinning the blame on his friend Derek Cook, 39, of Tamarac.
In September, Cook reached a deal to testify against LeVin in return
for reduced charges and no prison time. He is awaiting sentencing.
is the son of Arthur and Shirley LeVin, founders of Jewels by Park
Lane, a direct sales juggernaut that relies on at-home parties and does
about $155 million in sales annually, according to industry esti
mates. One of eight children, he grew up in a mansion with its own ballroom in Barrington, Ill., outside Chicago.
the time of the hit-and-run, LeVin was on probation in Illinois for a
2006 high-speed chase in Chicago that injured a police officer and two
motorists. He had multiple convictions in Florida, Illinois and Texas
for speeding, disobeying traffic lights, improper lane passing, fleeing
and eluding police officers, and cocaine possession.
officials will work with Florida authorities to have LeVin brought back
to his home state, where he faces a parole violation stemming from the
2006 incident, an Illinois corrections spokeswoman said. Illinois will
seek to have LeVin’s parole revoked and have him sent back to prison.
part of his sentence, McCarthy restricted LeVin from ever driving again
and ordered him to serve 1,000 hours of community service. LeVin will
not be required to wear an electronic monitoring device while on house
arrest at his parents’ condo.
Reached there Friday by phone, Shirley LeVin declined to comment.
Located on Port Everglades
Inlet, Point of Americas boasts a “spectacular private beach,” three
fitness centers and luxury condos where residents can watch cruise ships
from their terraces.
LeVin will be allowed to exercise and attend
church and must turn in a detailed weekly schedule to be approved by
his probation officer.
Bogenschutz said after Friday’s hearing
that his client has finally learned his lesson and knows he could still
wind up in prison if he violates the terms of his house arrest or
“I think he’s grown up a lot,” Bogenschutz said. “He
understands now how he has to stay out of trouble. I think this time
around was a real eye opener.”