DeKalb County Judge Cynthia Becker ordered new trials for two people convicted of racketeering involving the county’s school system because they were found guilty based on the testimony of former school Superintendent Crawford Lewis, whom she found to have been untruthful.
Becker’s order on Monday was in response to a Court of Appeals decision Friday that said she had to honor the agreement prosecutors had with Lewis that he would be sentenced to probation if he testified truthfully. Otherwise, the appellate court said, it would jeopardize the convictions of Pat Reid, who was over the schools district’s construction programs, and her former husband, architect Tony Pope.
Becker listed in her order eight times she believed Lewis was not being truthful about what he knew about Reid’s and Pope’s alleged efforts to manipulate millions of dollars in school construction projects to benefit themselves.
Reid, who was DeKalb school’s construction chief, and Pope, who was married to Reid when she was overseeing the program, were convicted last December of racketeering for manipulating construction contracts so that Pope got at least $1.4 million more than he should have.
Both are in the state prison system, sentenced as first offenders. Reid was sentenced to 15 years in prison to be followed by 10 years on probation. Pope, who has since remarried, was sentenced to eight years in prison plus 12 years probation.
Becker’s order said the two were to be released from prison immediately.
District Attorney Robert James’ office responded quickly to Becker’s order by filing a motion to vacate her order because she had issued it too soon.
The issue is over the sentence Lewis was promised if he helped prosecutors. Lewis was initially also charged with racketeering and theft but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing the DA’s investigation of Reid and Pope, and then he testified.
The agreement was that Lewis would be sentenced to 12 months probation.
The agreement had been discussed with the judge before the trial started and before Lewis entered his guilty plea.
Despite protests from prosecutors and Lewis’ attorneys, Becker sentenced Lewis to 12 months in jail because she said she did not believe he kept his promise to testify truthfully.
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