Appeals court overrules sentencing of former DeKalb superintendent

The Georgia Court of Appeals has overruled a judge’s decision to lock up former DeKalb County schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis, after his testimony helped send two people to prison.

DeKalb Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker may have breached an agreement between Lewis and DeKalb District Attorney Robert James when she sentenced Lewis to a year in jail instead of probation, Judge William Ray wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.

» DOCUMENT: Read the decision and comment

Lewis was charged along with former DeKalb schools chief operating officer, Pat Reid, and her ex-husband, architect Tony Pope, on racketeering and theft counts, in connection with school construction projects.

Prosecutors let Lewis plead to a misdemeanor count of hindering and obstructing a law enforcement officer after he agreed to testify against Reid and Pope. After his testimony, both prosecutors and Lewis’ lawyer recommended a sentence of 12 months on probation and told Becker they believed Lewis had told the truth on the witness stand.

Becker instead ordered Lewis behind bars last year, saying he allowed the crimes to occur in his school district and then hindered an investigation. When asked to reconsider, she questioned the “credibility” and “believability” of Lewis’ testimony, “thereby implying that Lewis may have testified untruthfully,” the appeals court opinion said.

The appeals court on Thursday issued a harshly-worded opinon that said Lewis did not get fair treatment in Becker’s court. He is entitled to specific details about how he allegedly lied, the ruling said. The ruling also suggested that Lewis seek Becker’s recusal, so another judge can decide that issue.

Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this article.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.