Former DeKalb County schools superintendent Crawford Lewis' attorney said Thursday his client is not only innocent of racketeering charges but is also a victim of a personal vendetta brought by the district attorney's office.
Lewis and three others, including the district’s former chief operating officer Patricia “Pat” Reid, were charged Wednesday with using the school district’s construction program to run a criminal enterprise that benefitted them and others close to them.
Thursday, Lewis and his wife Sandra stood next to his attorney, Mike Brown, during a news conference at the Midtown offices of Alston & Bird but did not speak.
“We think these charges are unfair but, frankly, we are not surprised by them,” Brown said from a prepared statement. “The reason I say that is because of the incredible animosity and disrespect that the district attorney’s staff has shown towards Dr. Lewis throughout this investigation.
“They have continuously demeaned him and disrespected him -- not just to us, but to other people that they interviewed during their investigation, people that we know or that know Dr. Lewis and reported those statements to us.”
Brown said that district attorney staffers “told us that they believe Dr. Lewis is ignorant, that they despise Dr. Lewis, and that they would not allow Dr. Lewis to be the dog catcher for DeKalb County.”
“I was a federal prosecutor for six years and I have never seen such personal animosity towards a target of an investigation,” Brown said. “And we believe that is what has caused the district attorney to seek these charges. That’s one of the reasons we’re going to fight so hard to prove they are false.
When asked to the allegations, district attorney’s office spokesman Orzy Theus said: "As in every case the DA made her decisions based on the facts."
Reid’s former husband, Anthony “Tony” Pope, and Reid’s school district secretary, Cointa Moody, also were indicted on racketeering and other charges.
Brown and Lewis, meanwhile, refused to answer questions from the media, walking out of a conference room as they were peppered with questions.
During his brief statement, however, Brown did address some of the charges levied against his client.
He said Lewis never “personally” asked construction vendors for any money, tickets or any other items of value, as authorities alleged Wednesday.
“It may be that others invoked his name when making requests, but if that happened, Dr. Lewis was unaware of it,” Brown said.
Brown also said that Lewis was never involved in the hiring vendors to work on construction projects.
When Lewis was hired, the board instructed him to find an expert to run the district’s construction program, Brown said.
“And he did so,” he said. “But he hired Pat [Reid].”
When he hired Reid, Lewis also consulted with attorneys to get direction on whether to allow Tony Pope to work for the school system.
The AJC has previously reported that Tony Pope was allowed to finish out one ongoing school project, but that he could not get any further work for the school system while his wife worked there.
“And he followed that advice at every step of the way,” Brown said.
Lewis has previously contended that Reid did not tell him that Tony Pope worked as an unnamed subcontractor for one of the projects involved in the probe. For another, Lewis told authorities Reid manipulated school board members to clear the way for her husband to get the work.
Brown also denied investigators’ claims that Lewis tried to hinder the criminal investigation.
“He never did anything to stop or interfere or hinder that investigation in any way,” he said, “and we will show that during trial of this case.”
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