James Levine fired by Met after it finds evidence of sexual abuse

LAKE COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) -- The Metropolitan Opera fired music director emeritus James Levine after an investigation found evidence of sexual abuse and harassment.

Levine was suspended by the Met in December pending the investigation.

The Met says in a Monday statement that its investigation found Levine "engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct towards vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers." The company says "it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to continue to work at the Met."

The 74-year-old Levine had been a towering figure in the company's history, ruling over its repertoire, orchestra and singers as music or artistic director from 1976 until he stepped down under pressure two years ago.

The Met says claims its management or board had covered up information of Levine's conduct were unsubstantiated.

The Lake County State's Attorney's office said in December it would not file charges against Levine related to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Prosecutors said police investigated allegations that Levine had sexually abused a teenager in 1986 and 1987 when the alleged victim was 16 and 17 years old, respectively. The alleged victim reported the incidents to police in Lake Forest, Ill., in October 2016. Levine served as music director at the Ravinia Festival, outside Chicago, from 1973 to 1993.

Prosecutors said a police investigation determined the age of consent in the state of Illinois at the time was 16, and said none of the complaints alleged use of force. Police also said records from the establishment where the acts were alleged to have occurred.

Prosecutors said at the conclusion of the police investigation, which also included interviewing witnesses close to both parties, they decided they could not bring criminal charges against Levine.

Levine denied the allegations of sexual misconduct, saying he wants to resume his work "with full concentration and inspiration."

The opera suspended Levine after the Times published accounts from three accusers who say that Levine sexually abused them when they were teenagers. A fourth accuser later came forward.

Since the time of these allegations, the age of consent in Illinois has been raised to 17, and to 18 in cases in which the suspect is in a position of trust, authority or supervision in relation to the victim, the Lake County State's Attorney's Office said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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