Home for the holidays: Convicted killers Goodman, LeVin

Hit-run killer Ryan LeVin allowed to travel to Chicago to be with ailing dad

It's not just Wellington polo magnate John Goodman who'll be home for the holidays. Ryan LeVin, another notorious South Florida deadly driver, has been allowed to travel to his wealthy family's suburban Chicago estate to be with his ailing father.

LeVin, serving a cushy two-year home confinement at his oceanfront Fort Lauderdale condo for vehicular homicide in the 2010 hit-and-run deaths of two British businessman, flew to Chicago last Friday and is scheduled to return Jan. 2, according to court records and his attorney, David Bogenschutz.

With his father Arthur, 76, fighting leukemia, LeVin has taken two court-approved trips to Chicago since Nov. 8. The Broward circuit judge now handling his case, Michael Usan, also gave Levin permission to fly to his niece's wedding in September, although it's unclear if LeVin actually took that trip to Chicago.

Prosecutors raised no objections to his latest two trips, with Broward assistant state attorney Stefanie Newman telling me that LeVin "has done everything he's supposed to do," since beginning his sentence in June 2011.

"It's beyond insulting," said Broward public defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office represents the poor. "My clients in prison don't get to visit sick parents or go to weddings. They're in a different legal universe."

LeVin has traveled without deputies or guards, required only to check in by phone with his probation officer. He has to take a drug/alcohol test when he returns. Before leaving on his latest trip, LeVin was allowed to remove his GPS ankle monitor.

"The airlines say it interferes [with their navigational systems] and can't be worn in flight," Bogenschutz said.

Ah, rich convicted killers. They're certainly different from you and me. Or at least they seem to get treated differently.

Goodman, heir to an air-conditioning fortune, was convicted of DUI manslaughter earlier this year, sentenced to 16 years in prison for fatally plowing into Scott Wilson, 23, after a night of drinking. But the judge has allowed Goodman to home-serve his sentence pending his appeal, with Goodman paying $2,000-a-day for guards (Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies) and posting $7 million bond.

Goodman returned to his $5.9 million Wellington home this week after a legal hiccup. He was jailed when something happened to his ankle monitor, but Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath said prosecutors didn't prove that Goodman tampered with it.

Finkelstein say these cases undermine faith in the legal system and the notion that justice is equal for all.

The lesson here is that if you're rich, you can buy your way out of traditional prison. And be allowed to travel, to boot.

LeVin gets to spend some quality time with his dad and jewelry-selling family in an estate that looks bigger than a state penitentiary. He also gets a mini-vacation from the not-so-hard time Judge Barbara McCarthy sentenced him to.

LeVin could have gone to prison for up to 30 years for the deaths of Craig Elford and Kenneth Watkinson. Instead, he got two years' house arrest after pleading guilty — McCarthy's wrist-slap coming after LeVin paid hefty undisclosed settlements to the victims' families.

This year, LeVin has asked to have his home confinement shortened and to change the terms so he doesn't have to wear his ankle monitor. Both bids were denied. After his home confinement ends in June, he'll be on probation another 10 years. Bogenschutz said he doesn't foresee any other requests.

"Ryan realizes he's gotten some benefits and he's not going to push the envelope," Bogenschutz told me Wednesday. "He'll agree to ride out the rest of the term."

When he's in Fort Lauderdale, LeVin is allowed to go to his condo's exercise room — I heard he used to have a personal trainer, something Bogenschutz couldn't confirm. He's also allowed out to go to church, stores, doctors, his lawyers' office and to community service with Habitat for Humanity. He originally was supposed to give talks to school kids, but the Broward School District wouldn't approve him for school visits.

Bogenschutz called LeVin — who had numerous legal troubles in the past, including a car chase in Illinois that injured a police officer — "a model client."

So LeVin and Goodman get to have rib roast (but no wine) with their families this Christmas.

If only their victims were so lucky.

mmayo@tribune.com or 954-356-4508.

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