Former DeKalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis has been released on $5,000 bond while he challenges an unexpected jail sentence for misdemeanor obstruction.
The presiding DeKalb Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson set the bond after the State Appeals Court ordered it, noting that Georgia law says “at no time” should bail be refused for anyone accused of a misdemeanor or while they are appealing a misdemeanor conviction or seeking a new trial. The order said DeKalb Superior Court should set a “reasonable” bond immediately.
Lewis tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his guilty plea on Monday, Dec. 9, when Judge Cynthia Becker rejected the prosecution’s recommendation that he be sentenced to 12 months probation and instead sent him to jail. Becker told Lewis’ lawyer he could file a motion to withdraw the plea but Lewis would be in jail in the meanwhile. Becker also declined to consider bond at that time.
Then the judge left town.
Becker initially communicated via email with prosecuting and defense attorneys. But she eventually said she would take up the issues of the plea and bond on Tuesday, Dec. 17, and ended all communication.
Attorney Michael Brown then tried to get another DeKalb County judge to hear the question of bond, arguing that Lewis will have been “illegally detained” for eight days by the time Becker holds a hearing. The other Superior Court judges declined to step in, so the matter was taken Friday to the Court of Appeals.
Lewis was initially charged with felony racketeering and theft. But, just days before he was to go on trial, Lewis pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction for trying to stop the district attorney’s investigation of him and former DeKalb schools Chief Operating Officer Pat Reid. Part of the plea agreement was that he would testify in the racketeering and theft trial of his one-time co-defendants, Reid and her ex-husband Tony Pope. Reid and Pope were convicted and received substantial prison sentences.
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