Levine won't face sex abuse charges in Lake County
Famed conductor and former Ravinia Festival Music Director James Levine won't face any charges related to accusations he sexually abused a teenage boy at a hotel near Ravinia during the mid-1980s.
Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said an investigation by his office and Lake Forest police revealed no evidence of forcible actions by Levine against the boy, who was 16 at the time of the alleged abuse. Because the state's "statutory age of sexual consent" was 16 at the time the abuse was alleged to have occurred, Nerheim is "bound to apply the law that was in effect at the time," he said in a news release.
"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 and the relevant age of consent in Illinois at the time of the alleged incidents, it is our decision that no criminal charges can be brought," Nerheim said. "It is important to note that since the time these acts are alleged to have occurred, Illinois law has raised the age of consent to 17."
Levine, who had left Ravinia in 1993, was also suspended from his emeritus post at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Met officials were also conducting a similar investigation into accusations made against Levine by others during the 1960s and into the 1980s, officials there said.
According to his accuser in the Lake County case, who is now 48, Levine began abusing him at the age of 16 by taking him to dinners and then hotel rooms where he said Levine would have him undress and the older man would perform sex acts on the teenager and himself. He told authorities Levine gave him roughly $50,000 during the times they met, but the encounters left him confused and unhappy and almost drove him to suicide, according to earlier reports.
Levine had been slated to serve a five-year run at Ravinia as conductor laureate beginning in 2018 until the accusations surfaced, after which organizers announced they were severing any ties to him. Levine served as music director for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's summer residencies at Ravinia from 1973 to 1993. His most recent performance there was Aug. 8 with the symphony and chorus.
• Daily Herald staff writer Lauren Rohr and wire services contributed to this report.