NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lawyers for the Brooklyn man accused of butchering an 8-year-old boy on his first walk home alone from an Orthodox Jewish day camp said on Monday they believe his signed confession was coerced and will pursue an insanity defense.
Levi Aron, 35, is charged with kidnapping, suffocating and dismembering Leiby Kletzky in July. His lawyers say he is insane and should therefore be found not guilty.
“My opinion is you could get this guy to admit he shot (John F.) Kennedy if you spent a little bit of time with him,” Howard Greenberg, a lawyer defending Aron, told reporters after a brief hearing at the Supreme Court in Brooklyn, New York.
Greenberg in a later interview told Reuters that he thought his client was “crazy.” Re recounted a meeting in which Aron “sat in a chair and didn’t move a muscle for about 30 minutes,” and said he found Aron’s signed confession dubious, noting it was written in “police Mandarin and lingo.”
Aron appeared at Monday’s hearing via a video feed, which showed him sitting virtually motionless in jail. He spoke only to confirm that he could hear the audio feed from the courtroom.
Aron was arrested on July 13 after a search by police and members of the local Orthodox community led to his apartment in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, where parts of Kletzky’s dismembered body were found in the freezer, according to prosecutors.
He has been charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping, and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
A court-ordered psychiatric evaluation ruled that Aron was fit to stand trial. At the time, Aron’s lawyers said they were considering an insanity defense and on Monday, they confirmed that was the defense they would pursue.
Arom has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held without bail.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office declined to comment on the defense strategy.
Dov Hikind, an assemblyman whose district includes Borough Park and who attended the court hearing, said the Kletzky family was upset at the thought Aron might be found not guilty.
“The message to the family and to everyone else is, ‘Don’t hold it against Levi Aron, it wasn’t him, it was the devil that did it,’ — that kind of thing is extremely painful,” he said in an interview.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune