Leonard Levitt: “He was usually a good read unless he was writing about you.”

From a New York Times obit by Sam Roberts about journalist Leonard Levitt:

Leonard Levitt, a journalist and author whose investigative and gossipy revelations of wrongdoing by the New York City police made him a must-read as the self-anointed conscience of Police Headquarters, died on Monday at his home in Stamford, Conn.He was 79.

A fiercely independent reporter for the now-closed New York Newsday starting in 1985, Mr. Levitt was lauded as a reform-minded inspiration by his supporters and attacked as a nit-picker by his critics.

An article he wrote in 1991 spurred a re-investigation of the 1975 killing of Martha Moxley, a teenager in Greenwich, Conn., which led to murder charges against Michael C. Skakel, a neighbor and cousin of the Kennedys.

Mr. Levitt accused the local police of deferring to the Skakel family in the early stages of the investigation, which he detailed in the book “Conviction: Solving the Moxley Murder: A Reporter and a Detective’s 20-Year Search for Justice” (2004), written with Frank Garr, the prosecution’s lead investigator. . . .

Mr. Levitt’s other books include: “NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country’s Greatest Police Force” (2009); “The Healer: A True Story of Medicine and Murder” (1980), about a Long Island doctor, Charles Friedgood, who was convicted of killing his wife; and “The Long Way Round” (1972), a novel about growing up. . . .

After he had left New York Newsday in 1995, the year the newspaper closed, and began his NYPD Confidential blog in 2005, the Police Department said he no longer qualified for credentials that allowed him to pass police barricades. It even barred him from Police Headquarters for a time. After the department rescinded his press card, he enlisted the help of the New York Civil Liberties Union and won it back. . . .

“His column became dated and shifted toward gossip after his departure from Newsday,” said Paul J. Browne, a deputy commissioner for public information under Mr. Kelly. “Still, he persevered with no cooperation from me, which was an achievement in itself.”

Alice McGillion, who was one of Mr. Browne’s predecessors in the 1980s, described Mr. Levitt as a “journalist advocate for reform” who followed his own path.

“Reform maybe is a loaded word, but it is reform in his mind — an injustice or something that made no sense,” Ms. McGillion said. “My friends in the department would not necessarily agree, but I do think that voice will be missed.”. . .

“Whatever he covered, he immediately alienated the mainstream sources, the leadership, and thus ingratiated himself with the disenfranchised and the unhappy,” John Miller, a former deputy police commissioner for public information — and now the deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism — told The Times in 2000. “They are much better sources.”

Still, Mr. Levitt became required reading at Police Headquarters. “Lenny was usually a good read unless he was writing about you,” Mr. Miller said in an email on Monday.

Murray Richman, a longtime defense lawyer from the Bronx, described Mr. Levitt as “the last angry man.

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