EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Stan Levco has worn many hats through the years.
The Vanderburgh County prosecutor from 1991 to 2011, Levco has written a humor column and is an avid runner. Now 75, Levco shows no signs of slowing down. He still competes in 15 to 20 running events a year.
But before we take part in a Q and A, he wanted to make one thing perfectly clear. His Wikipedia page is in error. A native of Boston, Levco is most assuredly not a fan of the New York Yankees.
Levco, who attended the University of Massachusetts, graduated from the Indiana University School of Law, gained admission to the Indiana Bar in 1972 and began his legal career as county court judge in Posey and Gibson counties in '76.
After serving as a judge for four years, Levco accepted a position in the Vanderburgh County prosecutor's office that he eventually rose to lead in 1991 as the elected prosecutor. He presided over this office through five city administrations, winning five four-year terms.
Levco tried approximately 200 cases, including more than 20 murder trials. He has also served as special prosecutor in Posey, Gibson, Warrick, Clark, Sullivan, Knox, Daviess, Lawrence, Pike, Vigo and Monroe County.
Levco still works as special prosecutor all over Indiana
He filed felony charges on April 25 in Vanderburgh County against former Parks and Recreations director Brian Holtz. On April 26, he stopped in Indianapolis to pick up a file on a Greene County case en route to Lake County for a hearing April 27 on the sheriff who is charged with resisting arrest. He was also appointed to an upcoming case in Delaware County.
He has written humor columns for the Mount Vernon Democrat, Evansville Press, Evansville Courier, Sunday Courier & Press and published two books: "The Best of Stan Levco" and "The Second Best of Stan Levco."
This Q and A has been edited for length and clarity.
As Vanderburgh County prosecutor, were the Donald Ray Wallace and Patrick Bradford cases the most high profile?
Wallace and Bradford were probably the two highest profile murder cases in Vanderburgh County. Other comparably high-profile murder cases were Lester Niehaus in Posey County, who was convicted primarily by matching his bite marks to breast indentations; Robert E. Lee, a dismemberment case in Monroe County, who was convicted primarily by matching garbage bags in his apartment with the garbage bag he buried her with; and David Camm, a police officer who was acquitted of murdering his family after having been twice convicted and twice reversed.
(Note: Camm was paid $4.6 million by the state of Indiana to settle claims that he was maliciously prosecuted and wrongly imprisoned. He spent about 13 years in prison before being exonerated at a third trial in 2013.)
How did you deal with the extra media scrutiny? Was that what made it different, more difficult than a typical murder case?
While the extra media scrutiny adds some extra pressure and there’s a tendency for a higher-profile case to take longer. The type and quality of the evidence relates more to the difficulty of trying the case than much higher media attention.
Dealing with media was not a problem. I’ve always been sympathetic to the media and the job they have to do, probably because I could have easily seen myself being a journalist if I hadn’t become a lawyer.
What changed most during your 20 years as Vanderburgh County prosecutor?
Although I think they usually get it right, juries are more skeptical in general, of authority. Prosecution of child molesting and domestic violence has increased more than the number of those crimes. Drugs are more prevalent. And DNA has had a huge positive impact.
What did you enjoy about writing humor columns for local newspapers? Any influences, such as maybe Dave Barry? As you know, it’s really difficult to make people laugh from something on the written page, as opposed to in person.
I enjoyed creating an original product, particularly if I thought it was really good, which would happen occasionally. I also basked in the glow of positive feedback, which also would happen occasionally, although not always on the same columns. For me, writing a column that I was really proud of and winning a jury trial were as good as it gets and I'd have difficulty choosing which gave me more satisfaction. Although I won more jury trials than wrote great columns.
Art Buchwald was a major early influence. By the time Dave Barry and others came along, I had already developed my own style. I'd been writing humor columns since college in 1965.
I'm not sure I agree that getting written laughs is more difficult than speaking. I never had the nerve to do stand up, but sometimes think I should have tried. Perhaps it depends on the individual.
You are an avid runner. How many competitive races do you run in, in a year? Do your muscles ache a little more as the years go on?
I run about 15-20 races a year. I ran a 5K in Greensboro (North Carolina) a few weeks ago and I ran what I thought would be my last half marathon in Las Vegas in February, but now I'm planning to run what is almost surely going to be my last half marathon in two weeks in Indianapolis. I believe it has the most runners of any half marathon in the world or at least it once did.
While my half marathons are at an end, I want to keep running as long as I can, which I realize won't be too much longer. In the Greensboro 5K, I was literally the oldest runner in the race. Everything hurts more now, but I still get a great deal of satisfaction just completing a race, although not as much satisfaction as from a good column or a jury conviction.
We talked about Don McLean coming to The Victory on July 22. So you must be an “American Pie” fan. Why do you think that song is so polarizing? You either love it or hate it.
I never thought of "American Pie" as polarizing, but if there are only two camps, I'd be in the "love it" camp. I taught a course at UE for non-credit in the 1970s titled "The Best Written Songs of the '60s and '70s". "American Pie" didn't make the cut.
Speaking of polarizing, politics isn’t supposed to carry over to the legal side. But it undeniably has, to the detriment of courtrooms everywhere. What is your reaction? Will it ever be more normalized again?
I don't have a meaningful answer. It's regrettable. It doesn't seem to be improving. It seems to be getting worse.
What are you doing now? What are your plans for the future?
Right now, I'm pretty busy as a special prosecutor. I expect to keep doing that for the foreseeable future — but I can't see very far in the future.
This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Former Vanderburgh County prosecutor Stan Levco still going strong