Met Opera conductor James Levine won't face criminal charges over abuse allegations: prosecutors

JAMES LEVINEPlayThe Associated Press
WATCH Met Opera suspends famed conductor over sex abuse allegations

Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine, who said on Thursday that recent allegations of sexual misconduct dating back decades in Illinois are "unfounded," will not face criminal charges, Illinois prosecutors said Friday.

The famed New York City arts institution announced last Sunday that it had suspended Levine as it investigates what it says are "multiple allegations of sexual misconduct" from the 1960s to the 1980s.

"While we await the results of the investigation, based on these new news reports, the Met has made the decision to act now," said Peter Gelb, Met General Manager. "This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected."

The Met Opera launched an investigation of the conductor based on a 2016 police report filed in Illinois by a man who alleges he was molested as a teenager by Levine 30 years ago.

The New York Post first reported details of the police report.

According to the police report, the alleged abuse occurred when Levine, now 74, was a conductor at the Ravinia Music Festival in Illinois. Levine is now director emeritus at The Met Opera.

The alleged victim, whose name was not published by The New York Post, filed a report with the Lake Forest Police Department in October 2016.

"I began seeing a 41-year-old man when I was 15, without really understanding I was really 'seeing' him," the alleged victim, now 48, said in a written statement to police. “It nearly destroyed my family and almost led me to suicide. I felt alone and afraid. He was trying to seduce me. I couldn’t see this. Now I can.”

But the Lake County state's attorney's office said in a statement Friday, "At the conclusion of the investigation, considering the specific conduct disclosed by the complainant, the age of the complainant at the time, all of the evidence in the case, and the applicable law ... it is our decision that no criminal charges can be brought," it said.

The statement notes the statutory age of consent in Illinois at the time of the alleged abuse was 16, though the state has since raised it to 17 and to 18 in cases where the accused was in a position of trust or authority over the victim.

"We are bound to apply the law that was in effect at the time the allegations occurred rather than the law as it currently exists," the statement says.

The statement said none of the accuser's statements to investigators "included any allegations of force."

The prosecutors' decision came a day after The New York Times published interviews with other alleged victims.

Levine responded to the allegations on Thursday night in a statement to The New York Times.

"As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded," he said in the statement. "As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor."

The Met Opera's general manager, Peter Gelb, said in a statement that the organization was aware of the accusations.

"This first came to the Met’s attention when the Illinois police investigation was opened in October of 2016,” Gelb said. “At the time Jim said that the charges were completely false, and we didn’t hear anything further from the police. We need to determine if these charges are true and, if they are, take appropriate action. We will now be conducting our own investigation with outside resources.”

Neither Levine nor a spokesperson for him has publicly commented.

Levine rose to prominence as The Met Opera's music director. The lauded maestro has been with the Met for 40 years and led "more than 2,500 performances of 85 different operas since his company debut in 1971 leading Puccini's Tosca."

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