Does Crawford Lewis Deserve Jail Time?

Former DeKalb County School superintendent sentenced to 12 months in prison after believing he would only receive probation in exchange for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction charge and testifying in recent high-profile corruption trial.

Does former DeKalb County School Distrcit Superintendent Crawford Lewis deserve jail time? Credit: DeKalb County Schools
Does former DeKalb County School Distrcit Superintendent Crawford Lewis deserve jail time? Credit: DeKalb County Schools
In October, former DeKalb Schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of a law enforcement officer in exchange for his testimony in the racketeering and theft trial against the district’s one-time chief operating officer and her architect ex-husband.

Lewis was originally indicted with Patricia Reid and Tony Pope, but after cutting a deal with the state, he took the witness stand last month in the trial that ended with the convictions of Reid and Pope.

On Monday, Reid was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 10 years probation for racketeering and theft, while her ex-husband received an eight-year prison sentence and a dozen years probation for racketeering. Prosecutors argued that Reid arranged for the district to pay Pope more than $1.4 million for construction contracts that he should not have been the beneficiary of.

DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker also shocked Lewis by saying he deserved jail time, too, and sentenced Lewis to 12 months in jail for his efforts to derail a probe into the state’s third-largest school district.

Lewis, who had originally faced up to 65 years if convicted of charges from the indictment, was expecting to receive just probation as prosecutors had recommended when they offered Lewis the plea deal in October.

On Tuesday, Lewis filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea if Becker doesn’t sentence him to a year of probation. If she declines, Lewis wants the judge to step away from the case. Lewis, who was handcuffed and escorted to jail Monday, is now awaiting a possible emergency hearing to hear his request.

In the May, 2012 indictment, charges against Lewis, Reid and Pope included four counts of racketeering, one count of bribery, and one count of theft by taking by a government employee.

Now after cutting a deal and testifying for the prosecution, do you feel Lewis deserves prison time? Or is probation enough for the former superintendent?

What goes around comes around December 12, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Absolutely. What a creep. Thank you Judge Becker.
Tucker Resident December 12, 2013 at 02:09 PM
Yes, he ruined and continues to ruin our property values due to what he did to the school system.
Bob White December 12, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Dekalb Resident Yes, 12 years of hard labor! He stole our money instead of spending it on our schools!
David Martin December 12, 2013 at 06:09 PM
I think that man will find little sympathy from the residents of Dekalb County. And that is precisely how much sympathy he deserves. Thank you Judge Becker!
Wayne Kelley December 13, 2013 at 07:49 AM
Whatever your personal feelings are about Lewis, this signals a disturbing trend in jurisprudence. Our courts and jails are jammed and overflowing, and it is in everyone's interest to resolve cases before trial if possible. If defendant's are all but guaranteed of an outcome in return for their cooperation, and then that outcome is changed, it's going to make a lot of folks think twice before cooperating with prosecutors. That could result in many less plea bargains, many more cases going to trial, and further congestion in an already nonfunctional system.
Wayne Kelley December 13, 2013 at 07:51 AM
(I wrote "defendant's" when I meant "defendants." I criticize others for this annoying grammatical error, and here I am guilty of it myself. Oh, the shame ...)
cindy miles December 13, 2013 at 10:17 AM
He should serve every day of those 12 months.
Pam Heisler December 13, 2013 at 10:17 AM
I understand what you're saying, but there needs to be limits on "deals"-- prosecutors already agreed not to pursue racketeering & theft charges against him. Given the gravity of the damage that their actions did to the school system, students, and inherent property values, he and his cronies deserve punishment. Sentencing him to a year of probation would be tantamount to sending him on a trip to Disneyworld and a slap to the collective faces of the citizens of DeKalb. Such leniency also sends a message-- you can screw up big time and spend a year on probation
joselefsky December 13, 2013 at 10:25 AM
The question posed is nonsensical because it confounds two totally different issues: 1. How Lewis should pay for his crime; and, 2. what deal Lewis struck with prosecutors. And that’s before we consider that, according to the AJC, Lewis’ attorney said that, with lawyers for the state and the defendant present, Judge Becker agreed to the deal in her chambers. There’s no question that a deal was struck, so, other than philosophically, the issue of whether Lewis’ punishment from the deal fits the crime—if Becker went along with it--is moot. In fact, if she did agree to the deal, the matter shifts to her conduct in sentencing Lewis as she did. Walter Kelley’s pragmatic approach is well-taken (and his correction of a grammatical slip is a good thing).
Wayne Kelley December 13, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Thanks, Joselefsky. I didn't mention the ethical implications of the judge agreeing to a deal (even tacitly) in chambers, then changing it in open court. BTW, I'm assuming you referred to me as "Walter" because you are, as am I, a big Breaking Bad fan, and calling someone "Walter" is the highest form of complement you can imagine. Right?
Wayne Kelley December 13, 2013 at 11:48 AM
Dang! I did it again! "Compliment," not "complement."
joselefsky December 13, 2013 at 11:56 AM
Pam, you make very good points, and, yes, for Lewis the deal was a “sweetheart,” although it may now have turned sour. We’ll see. The only factor I would add to the mix--and I don't know the answers in this case--is to consider how badly the state thought it needed Lewis' testimony to nail the other two. And corollaries of that are: the state’s evaluations of how good and believable Lewis would perform during direct examination and how well he would withstand defense attorneys’ cross-examinations.
joselefsky December 13, 2013 at 12:05 PM
“I'm assuming you referred to me as ‘Walter’ because you are, as am I, a big Breaking Bad fan, and calling someone ‘Walter’ is the highest form of compliment you can imagine. Right?” Wayne, when I consider the alternative, yes, yes, that’s exactly why I made that very obvious error! And, that’s so even though I have not seen the first minute of “Breaking Bad.”
Lou December 13, 2013 at 12:25 PM
Lewis should have reduced time for his testimony to nail the other two crooks. However, scott free or community service, even a brief sentence? That's an abomination. After how he failed the good citizens of DeKalb County with his unethical behavior, ten years prison would not be enough. He contributed greatly to the mess the DeKalb County School System is in and participated in robbing DeKalb County citizens. The leaders of DeKalb County have given the area a black eye in public opinion--and, yes, reduced the possibility of people buying homes here or businesses locating here. There should be strong consequences for such behavior to send a message to others. I suspect that some of these commenters in favor of Lewis are lawyers.
What goes around comes around December 13, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Wasn't he facing a 65-year sentence had he not negotiated the plea deal?? His crimes were significant, the devastation of which will be long-lasting, so probation only would have been unconscionable to the citizens of DeKalb County. One year looks like a pretty darn good deal, considering. What exactly did Judge Becker agree to? And was she bound by that agreement? Thanks.
joselefsky December 14, 2013 at 06:28 PM
While the years of incarceration for all charges against him may have added up to 65 years—I don’t know—as a practical matter, he wasn’t facing anywhere near that number. For one thing, the consensus is that he was not as culpable as the other two defendants, and you see what they got. If I had to guess: if there were no deal or he rejected a deal and was convicted, he’d of gotten no more than three years to serve, and more likely, no more than two--maybe just the one that Judge Becker has provisionally, at least, sentenced him to. Equally as important and a near certainty in my judgment: whatever time, if any, he wound up getting, he’ll do it in DeKalb’s jail (and not in a state prison, which are horrific places in Georgia and every other state—not that a county jail is a picnic). And if he doesn’t get into a jam, he’ll likely be out in less than two years. The other important consideration for his serving in DeKalb’s jail is that he’d be near his immediate family for visitation—a very important consideration. As I mentioned, the only thing I know about what, if anything, Judge Becker agreed to, is what I read in the AJC. The follow-up AJC story today, which reports that the Georgia Court of Appeals ordered bond set for him, and which beats up a little bit on Becker, doesn’t mention this again or update it, which makes me wonder how strong is the evidence that she agreed to the plea bargain. (There may even be a "correction" in the paper, I don't know. Your last question is the toughest. Frankly, I’ve never heard of a judge agreeing in his or her chambers to a plea and then reneging. So, I don’t know (and I’m not going to research it), but I strongly think that, if she did agree to it, she would be, in your words, “bound to that agreement.”
twin oakley December 15, 2013 at 10:28 PM
The 'judicial' system is whacked. There are plenty of people who did jail time just for simply using their state-issued Pcards for personal use. Crawford Lewis is getting off very, very easy on this one from my perspective. He was basically allowed to testify about his fear of having his extra-marital affair exposed in exchange for a slap on the wrist. He gave no evidence to help the prosecution. It was a gift. He should be glad he has so many friends on the inside of the 'judicial' system. That's what it takes!


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