Ed Savitz Was No Victim, No Icon Of Virtue

Posted: June 01, 1993

Here it is, just weeks after Ed Savitz' death, and his headline-grabbing, self-promoting, media-happy attorneys still won't let the man or the memory fade into the obscurity he deserves. Perhaps they thought (or hoped) that I wouldn't respond to their absurd treatise (Commentary Page, May 12) on their late client, or perhaps they were hoping that I would respond so that they would have one last gush of publicity before they advertise their book, movie or TV docudrama (or maybe all three) about their departed client.

At the very least, these attorneys have shamelessly used the media in an apparent attempt at garnering publicity for themselves, which may be nothing more than an attempt to attract new clients.

For myself, I would have been well content to let Savitz go to his eternal rest, interred with all the good and the evil he did in his lifetime, fading into the nothingness of "yesterday's news." But no - his lawyers, Barnaby C. Wittels and Stephen Robert LaCheen - won't let the man and the memory diminish.

They continue to attempt to portray him as an icon of virtue, elevating an insatiable collector of 3,500 kiddie porn photos, an eager saver of hundreds of trash bags filled with feces-smeared boys' underwear and smelly gym socks, and an alleged sexual pervert especially involved with young boys, into a person of high moral character.

In their attempt to turn the discerning eye of the public away from the sordid facts of the Savitz case and his apparent double life, and minimize their own complicitous role in all the media hype over the past year, they falsely attribute to me the label "Typhoid Mary" which they pinned on their own client. I never uttered any such term. They valiantly try to make Savitz a sympathetic figure because he had AIDS even as he took sexual pleasure with immature boys. Obvious deceit never wins out over history, even the history attempted by arch-revisionists Wittels and LaCheen.

Let us return, then, to history - what is, instead of what these performers want it to be. In 1991, a counselor at a parochial high school met with a group of students who, during classes on drug/alcohol education, told him that they and a number of other males at the school had gone to the apartment of an ''Uncle Eddie" to sell him their underwear and their feces and to pose for him naked - all for a fee. The Sex Crimes Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department had been investigating longstanding complaints from Savitz' neighbors and apartment management, who saw Savitz bring many young boys ranging in age from 10 to 16 years to his apartment at all hours of the day and evening, virtually every day of the week. According to a tenant, Savitz explained the stream of boys into his apartment by saying that he "was a social worker and was trying to help them" because they were poor or ''underprivileged."

In late March 1992, Savitz was arrested and, on the same date, he and Wittels disclosed to the police that Savitz had been diagnosed with AIDS for at least one year. I know that, with all of the din created by the media hype, the kernel of truth got lost in the process, but the simple truth is that Savitz was stricken with an overwhelming attack of conscience. He wanted to let the many boys with whom he had had sexual contact know that he was ill, even though he denied it to them or kept it hidden from them. Now that he was caught, he could purge his guilt (and perhaps his soul in the process) by announcing in a very public forum that it was in their best interests to get AIDS testing.

Very stringent privacy laws protect persons who are HIV positive or suffering from AIDS. That is why the public doesn't know of any person's health status upon arrest unless the person discloses this himself. Since, however, the public disclosure by Savitz in a case involving intimate sexual contact with children might have been deemed to be tantamount to a guilty plea and because Savitz' attorney didn't want to make the announcement, both of them voluntarily signed an agreement permitting me to make the disclosure as a matter of public health.

At the time that I made the disclosure along with Health Commissioner Dr. Robert Ross, for the purpose of warning those who had been placed at risk by Savitz' criminal conduct, we scrupulously adhered to the precise terms of that agreement. The very same agreement that Savitz and Wittels signed admitting that AIDS-infected Savitz paid teenagers for sex.

No one, surely not Savitz' lawyers, anticipated the firestorm of nationwide publicity caused by this announcement. A veritable tidal wave of prurient interest, so typical of American media vultures, was generated. At no time did anyone in this office say anything other than what is permitted by the Attorney's Code of Professional Responsibility.

The only persons who fed the media anything for the next year were his lawyers and literally dozens of young boys, some pre-pubescent, who gleefully confessed to local TV, press and radio interviewers that "we only wanted money" for selling their sex, underwear, or themselves to the man who referred to himself as "Uncle Ed" and who lived in an apartment so reeking

from the stench of bags and boxes of feces and soiled underwear that one could become ill.

Many more openly talked about how they were the second generation of boys in the family who posed for sexually explicit Polaroid photos of themselves - all for a price, of course, which Uncle Eddie quickly and happily paid. Even the ever-protesting Wittels was widely quoted as saying that his client invited up to 100 boys to his home for the purpose of buying underwear and excrement - not for sex, of course - and that his client should be placed in a mental hospital. Indeed, after making bail, Savitz checked himself into Einstein Hospital's psychiatric ward where he remained for two days until his second arrest on the complaint of additional boys.

There were not just four boys as stated by Wittels and LaCheen, but rather, at least 21 victims who would have been called as witnesses had this case gone to trial. Some of these boys began having sex with Savitz when they were only 13 or 14 years old.

When the campaign to make Savitz an object of pity because of his mental illness was unsuccessful, his lawyers then tried to make him a victim, first

because he was held in custody under very high bail and stringent conditions set by the courts, and then because Savitz refused to take his AIDS medicines and deliberately made his illness progress faster.

Then, when their client became sicker, his attorneys demanded special privileges for their rich, sick client - that he be permitted to go to a private hospital for the treatment he refused at the prison hospital.

While the publicity swirled - fueled by protestations by Wittels that his client was innocent - Wittels has acknowledged that he was quietly seeking to negotiate a guilty plea with the District Attorney's Office to all of the sexual offenses Savitz was charged with, including having unlawful sexual intercourse with children.

However, Wittels insisted that the guilty plea would be offered only on condition that the mandatory prison sentence required by law be dropped. We declined to allow Savitz to avoid prison in favor of a hospice in Texas

because it was morally wrong and legally indefensible to do so.

So tell me, Messrs. LaCheen and Wittels: The only thing you left out of your pronouncements so far is the production or publication date of your now well-hyped-in-advance book or movie. Won't you now just let your client rest in peace?

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