23 October 2007

We Remember: Preppy Killer Robert Chambers

1980's New York was Bernard Goetz, Ed Koch, Howard Beach, Robert Chambers and the Mets.

Robert Chambers was convicted of manslaughter for the death of 18-year-old Jennifer Levin in Central Park during the early morning of 26 August 1986.

It all started at Dorrian's.

Dorrian's Red Hand is an Irish bar over on Second Avenue and East 84th Street, on the Upper East Side. Started by Irish immigrant James "Red Dog" Dorrian in 1960 and operated by his son Jackie, the popular hangout became a pillar of a social institution for preppy U.E.S. teenagers, college students, and yuppies. Collared shirts are required for gentlemen. Dorrian's is a common hangout for the players of the New York Yankees.

Jennifer Levin

Chambers' girlfriend Alex very publicly broke up with him at Dorrian's Red Hand the night of the killing. She was heard to express jealousy regarding the presence of Jennifer Levin as she broke up with him. He subsequently left the bar with Levin.

Levin's strangled, semi-clothed corpse, which had bruises, bite marks, and cuts, was found by a bicyclist beneath an elm tree on a grassy knoll near Fifth Avenue and 83rd Street behind the Met.

The Medical Examiner said Levin died of "asphyxia by strangulation," and cops said there were numerous bruises on her neck, both from the strangulation and from her own fingernails as she clawed at her murderer's hands.

Later, a creepy Chambers watched from nearby as cops investigated and found Levin's underwear some 50 yards away.

Cops were given Chambers's name by patrons at Dorrian's, which he had been seen leaving with Levin. When they called to question him at his home he had fresh scratches on his face and arms, which he initially said were cat scratches, and was taken in for questioning.

Though he changed his story several times (for example, his cat had been declawed; he didn't part from Levin immediately upon leaving the bar; his story that she had parted from him to purchase cigarettes was invented, as she didn't smoke), his ultimate confession claimed that some time after he and Levin had left the bar she sexually assaulted him, asked for "rough sex," tied the 6'5" Chambers's hands with her panties, hurt his genitals as she painfully masturbated him, and that she had been killed accidentally when he freed his hands and pushed her off him.

Confronted with this explanation, the examining Assistant D.A. said: "I've been in this business for a while, and you're the first man I've seen raped in Central Park."

Before booking, Chambers was permitted to see his father, to whom he said, "That fucking bitch, why didn't she leave me alone?"

The excited media immediately labelled the crime "The Preppie Murder."

Part of the media reported the more lurid aspects of the case; the Daily News headlines read: "How Jennifer Courted Death" and "Sex Play Got Rough."

Levin's reputation was attacked, and she was portrayed as a "teenage vamp," while Chambers was a handsome Kennedy-esque "preppy altar boy" with a "promising future," and the couple were portrayed as tragic lovers emblematic of the wasted lives of modern socialite idle youth. Bret Easton Ellis much?

The (imagined) wealth of the two was emphasised, as were their good looks, and Chambers' explanations were accepted at face value: his criminal past and drug addicted, drug dealing present went unreported for several months.

Some initial media coverage took as a given that a girl who drinks with a man in a bar late at night and goes to the park for sex deserves what happens to her.

In an unusual turn for a murder case in which the defendant has no job, bail was granted, and Chambers was bailed out by his family and the owner of the bar, Jack Dorrian (who used his $650,000 East Side townhouse to secure $150,000 bail for Chambers). He remained free on bond for the 2 years of his trial, reporting regularly to a Monsignor named Thomas Leonard, a former teacher and a family friend.

Chambers was charged with, and tried for, two counts of second-degree murder. His defense was that the killing had happened during "rough sex."

Chambers was defended by prominent lawyer Jack T. Litman, who had previously used the "blame the victim" strategy in his defense of Richard Herrin for the murder of Yale University student Bonnie Garland.

The prosecutor Linda Fairstein stated: "In more than 8,000 cases of reported assaults in the last 10 years, this is the first in which a male reported being sexually assaulted by a female." The defense sought to depict Levin as a sexually wanton woman who kept a "sex diary." No such diary existed; Jennifer instead owned a small notebook that contained the names and phone numbers of her friends. Such tactics were met with public outrage, with protesters, some calling themselves "Justice for Jennifer", demonstrating outside the courtroom on a daily basis.

With the jury deadlocked for 9 days, a plea bargain was struck in which Chambers pled guilty to the lesser crime of manslaughter in the first degree and burglary for his 1986 thefts.

his meant he stood convicted of 2 felonies, and would be subject to the "3 strikes" law if he were to commit another felony in the future, and therefore would be subject to a life sentence.

He was sentenced to serve 5 to 15 years with the sentence for burglary being served concurrently at Auburn State Prison.

After the trial, in April 1988, A Current Affair obtained and broadcast a home video showing Chambers cavorting at a party when he was free on bail, amidst four lingerie-clad girls, choking himself with his hands while making loud gagging noises, and twisting a Barbie doll's head off, saying in falsetto: "My name is…. Oops! I think I killed it"

Chambers was later moved to Clinton Correctional Facility, due to his infractions which cost him all his time off for good behavior. He assaulted a C.O. and was cited repeatedly for weapons and drug infractions, some of which resulted in additional criminal charges. Ellen Levin, mother of Jennifer Levin, also pleaded before the New York parole board to deny him parole.

Nearly 5 years of his term were served in solitary confinement. Chambers was discharged from prison on Valentine's Day, 2003, at age 36, after having served the entirety of his prison term due to his numerous infractions.

The owner of Dorrian's Red Hand came to a private settlement with Levin's parents on their claim that the bar had served alcohol to Chambers in excess.

A wrongful death lawsuit to which Chambers pleaded no contest provides that his future income (up to $25 million), including any income from book or movie deals, will be turned over to the Levin family. The family has said all the money it gets from Chambers will go to victims' rights organisations.

After leaving prison, Chambers settled in Georgia, with his girlfriend, Shawn Kovell, who was in the infamous Barbie doll video before his sentencing. The two lived there for eight to nine months. Chambers found a job at the Pentafab dye factory.

Chambers and Kovell moved to an East 57th Street Sutton Place apartment when it was left vacant by the death of Kovell's mother in the autumn of 2003. Chambers found a job at a limousine company in Queens, and later in a New Jersey sports trophy manufacturer engraving plant.

Shortly before Thanksgiving 2004, Chambers was stopped in his Saab for driving with a suspended drivers license on Harlem River Drive at 139th Street. A search of the car he was driving found glassine envelopes with an unknown substance. Chambers was charged on November 29, 2004, with possession of heroin and cocaine and driving with a suspended license.

And now he's back!

Cops say the now 41-year-old Chambers was arrested late yesterday at his Sutton Place home after a struggle with officers. He's charged with several counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance and resisting arrest after fighting with the arresting officers.

Police had received various complaints alleging drug sales at Chambers' residence.

Police spokesman Paul Browne says undercover officers had bought more than a half pound of cocaine, with a street value of $20,000 from Chambers.

Shawn Kovell, his girlfriend from the Barbie doll video, was also arrested on drug-selling charges.

Chambers has been charged with 3 counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, 3 counts of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree and 1 count of Resisting Arrest. Kovell was also arrested on 1 count Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree.

Your boy is fucked. He'll probably get 20+ years to life.

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