Judge sticks with Crawford Lewis’ jail sentence

A DeKalb County Superior Court judge stood by her decision to sentence former School Superintendent Crawford Lewis to jail instead of probation, making it clear Tuesday that she doubted his testimony against his former co-defendants was true.

So the case that started in 2008 and led to indictments more than 3 1/2 years ago is far from over.

Lewis is asking the Georgia Court of Appeals to look at the 12-month jail sentence Judge Cynthia Becker gave him for misdemeanor obstruction. He expected probation instead, because of a plea agreement with prosecutors. Under the plea deal, he testified against Pat Reid, once the district’s chief operating officer, and her ex-husband architect Tony Pope.

It could be 60 days before the state appeals court decides if it will take the case, and another year if the appellate judges hear it.

“This is very difficult and we just want it to be over,” Lewis said after the hearing.

Meanwhile, he remains free on bond.

Becker said despite Lewis’ agreement with prosecutors, she still had the final say, and her decision was a based on Lewis’ testimony along with testimony by other witnesses, including Reid and Pope.

Before the plea deal, Lewis was also charged with theft and racketeering, accused of conspiring with Reid and Pope to manipulate school district construction contracts to benefit the once-married couple.

Becker noted a few times at the sentencing and again Tuesday that Lewis was required to testify “truthfully.”

She also rejected Lewis’ attorneys’ motion that she remove herself from the case and allow another judge to take over.

Last week, Becker agreed with the prosecution’s recommendation that Reid spend 15 years in prison for racketeering and theft. She sentenced Pope to eight years in prison for racketeering even though prosecutors had asked for a decade.

Then she stunned Lewis by rejecting prosecutors’ recommendation of probation for his guilty plea to interfering with the District Attorney’s Office’s investigation of himself and Reid.

“This was on your watch and for you to have hindered their completion of their investigation to the detriment of DeKalb County School system is abhorrent,” Becker said during the sentencing on Dec. 9.

Lewis immediately tried to withdraw his guilty plea and asked for bond that day but the judge said he needed to make the requests in writing, and then she sent him to jail. The next day Becker left town for a long-planned vacation that included attending the Army-Navy football game.

Lewis was released on bond Friday night after the Georgia Court of Appeals said state law required bail in cases like his.

On Tuesday, Lewis faced a dilemma: 12 months in jail for a misdemeanor or prosecution on racketeering and three felony theft charges.

“If you withdraw your guilty plea it will be as if you never entered one,” Becker told Lewis. “If it (the DA’s office) chooses to prosecute under the original indictment … you will be looking at 65 years … You’ve already testified so they can use that testimony against you in future prosecutions.”

Lewis opted to wait on the Court of Appeals before deciding if he will withdraw the plea or let it stand.

Later, asked by reporter is he regretted testifying, Lewis simply responded “no comment.”

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