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Illinois man alleges ‘hundreds’ of incidents with James Levine

James Levine leads in July 2016 conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler's "Symphony No. 2" at the Ravinia Festival. | Russell Jenkins/Ravinia Festival

There were cash gifts from the revered American conductor — $50,000 worth through the years. And a promise to help the teenage boy launch his own classical music career.

And even if he’d thought about declining the offers — or had fully grasped what was happening to him — the older man “was not a person you ever said no to,” Ashok Pai wrote in a 2016 Lake Forest Police report about the man he says sexually abused him for seven years: James Levine, the longtime conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and music director of Ravinia Festival from 1973 to 1993.

Details of the police report appeared in a Saturday story in the New York Post. The Met, where Levine was music director until health problems forced him to step down in 2016, is bringing in an outside law firm to investigate Levine, The New York Times reported Sunday. In all, four men have now come forward, claiming Levine sexually abused them. Some of that alleged abuse dates back to 1968, The Times reported.

Both the Met and Ravinia have now cut ties with the maestro. Levine was due this summer to begin a five-year term as Conductor Laureate at Ravinia.

A spokeswoman from the Lake County state’s attorney’s office in Waukegan would confirm this week only that the Lake Forest Police case is being reviewed.

“We can’t comment further due to its pending review,” said the spokeswoman, Cynthia Vargas.

The Post’s story doesn’t mention Pai by name, but he agreed to be named in The Times’ article.

Pai grew up in Illinois and first met Levine when he was four years old, after a Ravinia concert in 1973. The boy’s parents took him backstage to meet the famous composer. Pai would see Levine on subsequent summer visits to Ravinia.

Things took a strange turn when Pai was 15, he said in the police report quoted by The Post.

“He started holding my hand in a prolonged and incredibly sensual way,” Pai wrote. “I was not aroused as I never was during my relationship with him as I am a heterosexual individual. But there were some feelings of affection and mostly confusion. … I was very uncomfortable with the hand holding.”

About a year later, things progressed, with Levine allegedly fondling Pai at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, the Post reported. There were “hundreds of incidents” at the luxury hotel, according to the Post’s reading of the police report.

“I began seeing a 41-year-old man when I was 15, without really understanding I was really ‘seeing’ him,” Pai said in the report. “It nearly destroyed my family and almost led me to suicide. I felt alone and afraid. He was trying to seduce me. I couldn’t see this. Now I can.”

Pai said the relationship, which ended in 1993, also involved Levine writing a glowing college recommendation for the teen.

“Over the years, I have always found him to be exceptionally responsive and concentrated, curious and eager to learn,” the Post quotes from the Levine letter written on Met stationery.

Neither the Met nor Levine could be reached for comment.

Earlier this year, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law legislation that removes the statute of limitations on sex abuse crimes. Under the old law, victims had to report crimes within 20 years after turning 18 years of age.

Terry Ekl, a prominent civil and criminal defense attorney, says, based on his understanding of the new law, it’s “unlikely” that criminal charges could be brought in Pai’s case. That’s because the state’s 20-year statute of limitations in such cases had already expired long before the new law went into effect, and couldn’t be applied retroactively, he said.