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Doctor Begins Work Furlough in Wife’s Death

Times Staff Writer

A Studio City neurosurgeon who admitted supplying drugs that killed his addict wife surrendered in Los Angeles Superior Court Monday to begin serving a 180-day sentence at a halfway house, which will enable him to continue practicing medicine during the day.

Instead of serving his sentence in Los Angeles County Jail, Dr. Stephen M. Levine, 42, was allowed by Judge Robert Fainer to participate in the Los Angeles County Probation Department’s work furlough program.

Levine will be housed at the Biscailuz Center in East Los Angeles, a minimum security, dormitory-like facility. He will be permitted to leave the center daily to work at the National Industrial Medical Center in Chatsworth and at La Cienega Medical Center in Los Angeles--clinics that he operates with his brother Dr. David L. Levine, 43, said his attorney, Gerson S. Horn.

Before agreeing to the arrangement, Judge Fainer required Stephen Levine to present proof to that he had obtained medical malpractice insurance. The physician will have to pay the county $23.39 a day to cover the cost of his confinement.

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Fainer earlier had ordered Stephen Levine to serve 180 days in County Jail but delayed the sentence--over the objection of prosecutors--so that the neurosurgeon could undergo psychiatric examination to see if the jail term would harm him.

Prosecutors did not object to the work-release arrangement imposed Monday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert W. Dawson said.

Stephen Levine was originally charged with one count of murder and 44 felony counts of illegally prescribing the painkiller Demerol, the use of which led to the death of his wife, Myrna, 32, at the couple’s Tarzana home.

But he was able to avoid a state prison term by pleading guilty to the lesser involuntary manslaughter charge and five counts of prescribing drugs illegally. Besides the jail term, he was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to perform 2,000 hours of community service.

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Accessory After the Fact

His brother, an orthopedic surgeon, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in Myrna Levine’s death for signing a certificate listing the cause of death as cardiac arrest. He previously was sentenced to one year’s probation, fined $2,500 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

The judge twice delayed the imposition of Stephen Levine’s sentence after the physician’s attorney argued that Levine should be allowed to serve his sentence in the halfway house because he would suffer severe psychological damage if imprisoned.

Workings of Program Told

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Carl Curtis, director of the work furlough program, said that Stephen Levine, who had no criminal record, was evaluated and found to be fit to participate in the work furlough program, which is designed to enable convicts who are not a danger to society to continue working while serving a jail sentence. With time off for good behavior, he could be free in 120 days, Curtis said.

A spokesman for the state Board of Medical Quality Assurance, which is responsible for licensing and disciplining physicians, said Monday that the state attorney general’s office has not determined whether to act against Stephen Levine’s medical license.

“Currently, Dr. Levine has an unrestricted license and can practice medicine until we are able to prove otherwise that it should be restricted or revoked,” said Stephen R. Wilford, assistant executive director of the medical board.


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