IT'S SIMPLE ENOUGH to find out what happened to Jesse Levis, former star catcher for Northeast High School, on the night of March 2, 2008, at the SpringHill Suites hotel in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
A cursory Internet search quickly reveals that Levis, then a scout for the Boston Red Sox, was allegedly observed masturbating in front of the window of Room 215 while teenage girls swam in the pool below. A few more keystrokes turn up the fact that the hotel manager told police Levis may have been involved in a similar incident the year before. That he was arrested and charged with two felony counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts in the presence of children. That he was fired by the Red Sox at the end of the season.
What's difficult is finding any reporting on what happened next. Which was:
The hotel manager quickly retracted his story about a previous incident.
Levis took, and passed, a lie-detector test.
The charges were dropped from felonies to misdemeanors.
And they were dismissed altogether on Jan. 27, 2010.
The hotel manager no longer works at the SpringHill Suites. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. Three sources, however, confirmed that he later retracted his statement about the earlier incident.
Levis is naturally happy that he no longer faces prosecution. At the same time, his life has been turned upside down forever. He hasn't been able to get another job in baseball. His wife, Joan, has had to go back to work. This is how it goes. The original, sensational charges get headlines. Subsequent developments are almost always overlooked afterthoughts.
"They [the police] didn't listen to anything I said. They didn't care about my lie-detector test. They didn't want to listen to my attorney or anything. It was just, 'You're guilty.' And the Internet just ran with it," Levis said recently while sitting in the living room of his Fort Washington home.
"It was a mess. It sat in limbo for almost 2 years. A lot happened in the middle of that as far as losing my job. The Red Sox held on to me as long as they could. They put me back to work and I worked that whole 2008 season. They didn't renew my contract because [the case] was still pending.
"It was terrible. I had no benefit of the doubt. My whole life I built a good name and I was a good person. And I am a good person. And in an instant . . . "
He snapped his fingers. "I just couldn't understand how this could drag on so long. Once you get into that legal system, it was a disgrace how long it took.
"A big part of my life has been taken away from me. My profession, the thing I love to do most, which is work in baseball, what I've done my whole life, has been taken away from me."
From Franz Kafka's "The Trial" - "Somebody must have defamed Josef K, for without having done anything wrong, he was arrested one morning" - to Alfred Hitchcock's "The Wrong Man," there is a rich vein of literature dealing with the unspeakable helplessness of trying to clear your name against unfounded slurs.
No matter how this ended for Levis, there were sure to be those who believed he had gotten away with something, even if he had been pronounced innocent. The fact that the case never came to trial only encourages more speculation than if he had been tried and found not guilty.
"He got a break. He got off on a technicality. We had witnesses prepared to testify. We believe we could have proven our case beyond a reasonable doubt," said assistant state attorney Gayle D. Braun, the final prosecutor who handled the complaint.
Judge Philip Yacucci, who signed the discharge order, takes a more measured view. "The state was faced with evidentiary proof problems. And that, combined with an unfavorable ruling as far as a speedy trial, dictated they ask that the charges be dropped," he said.
And Jayne Weintraub, Levis' attorney, remains appalled Levis was accused in the first place.
"This was handled in a very horrific way," she said. "The prosecutors were just lazy, looking to make a name for themselves. They turned it over. There were four different prosecutors who handled the case. Nobody had the guts to try it, because there was no evidence. They didn't want an acquittal in front of a jury. And nobody had the guts to dismiss it because they didn't want egg on their face.
"The reality is that we finally said, 'Enough is enough.' We filed a demand for a speedy trial. No witnesses came forward and the case was dismissed. The state could have appealed it. They appeal these things all the time if they want to go forward. The state didn't want to go forward because I'm sure they have no evidence."
Bottom line: Everybody is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Levis was never proven guilty.
Weintraub even suggested a motive for the young women, who were accompanied by an older male when they complained to the hotel manager.
"I honestly believe what motivated them was a lawsuit or a quick settlement with the Mets, or the Red Sox, thinking he was connected with one or the other team. And that's all you have to say these days. 'Oh, he touched me.' Or, 'Oh, he did something or showed me his private parts.' And everybody goes nuts because that's the crime du jour," she said.
"Unfortunately, there's a big net out there that gets a lot of innocent fish. Not that there aren't bad guys out there, too. There are plenty of them. But, unfortunately, every now and then you get somebody like Jesse. He's never been in trouble in his life and out of nowhere comes this charge."
Added Levis: "It just makes you question the motives of people, I guess. It was a baseball hotel. Players stay there, scouts stay there, reporters. If somebody thinks they can get something from somebody by saying something, I'm sure you see a lot of that nowadays, right? I don't know. They thought they had a big-shot ballplayer doing something or they can pretend or make up a story."
Polygraph results are inadmissible in court, but Weintraub was prepared to introduce evidence that proved Levis was on his computer during the time he was allegedly exposing himself and had then gone to dinner at the Ruby Tuesday's next door to the hotel. There are pictures showing a large palm tree between the pool area and the window, which could have obscured the view of any potential witnesses.
Levis, now 42, originally was drafted by the Phillies out of high school but decided to attend North Carolina instead. He eventually went on to play for the Indians and Brewers in the majors and spent time with several minor league organizations, including all of 2003 with the Phillies' Triple A team in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
These days, he's Mr. Mom while Joan works as a physical therapist.
"I try to look at the bright side," he said. "It's over with. It's behind me. My name is cleared. I've gotten to spend a ton of time with my family, my wife and my children. I've been their tee ball coach. I've gone back to school and I'm getting close to my degree. I want to be a teacher, I think, if baseball doesn't work out.
"That's been a blessing in disguise. In the scouting profession you're never home in the summer. It was tough as far as with the family and children. But I've been able to take some nice trips with the kids and Joan."
At the same time, baseball remains his first choice. He has contacted all 30 big-league general managers. He's open to scouting, coaching, player development.