DECATUR - Only Channel 2 Action News was in court Wednesday afternoon when one of the key players in a high-profile corruption case involving a former DeKalb County Superintendent took a plea deal.
Crawford Lewis struck a deal and pleaded guilty to obstruction charges for his involvement in a school construction scandal.
The plea allowed Lewis to avoid more serious charges of racketeering and theft by taking.
Channel 2's Erica Byfield was in the courtroom Wednesday when Lewis formally pleaded to obstructing of a law enforcement officer, a misdemeanor.
Up until Wednesday, Lewis, like his other two co-defendants, faced multiple racketeering and theft by taking charges.
Tony Pope and Patricia Reid didn't say anything in open court and sat silently by their respective attorneys.
Prosecutors said Pope and Reid, who were married, cheated the system and were able to make millions of dollars off taxpayers.
Reid worked for the DeKalb County School District and Pope was an architect. The pair are now divorced.
As a part of Lewis' plea deal, the former superintendent agreed to testify against Pope and Reid. He also gets to avoid racketeering charges for allegedly buying a car from the school district at a steep discount, and theft by taking charges for allegedly using his district issued credit card to buy chocolates and strawberries for his mistress and using it on a vacation with his wife to the Bahamas.
Lewis won't know what his sentence will be for a while.
"The court will sentence you accordingly, subject to your truthful testimony during the trial of your co-defendants Patricia Reid and Vincent Anthony Pope," said Lawanda Hodges, assistant district attorney for DeKalb County.
There is still a gag order in the case so Byfield was unable talk to any of the players. The case is expected to go to trial later this month.
A brief history school construction scandal
The current case against those former school officials is significantly scaled back from when prosecutors first indicted it back in 2010.
The first difference is the original case was taken to the grand jury by the former district attorney.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer was there when she presented 800-plus pages of documents and a power point presentation.
The DA outlined a huge racketeering operation, with bribes and theft.
Now, the case has only four counts and after Wednesday, only two defendants.
The former district attorney called it a complicated construction scheme in which DeKalb schools Chief Operating Officer Patricia Pope, now Pat Reid, funneled work to her architect husband, Tony Pope.
Reid was accused of firing construction companies, re-bidding multimillion dollar projects, and altering contracts so the architect's name was hidden.
Prosecutors said the fraudulent payments totaled more than $2.3 million.
Then-superintendent Crawford Lewis was accused of knowingly signing off on all of it, thus allowing it to happen.
"I think that, for three years or more, my family and I have been in legal limbo and we're looking forward to the day when we're able to move forward and I can prove my innocence," Lewis told Channel 2's Mark Winne in April.
Now, instead of proving his innocence, he's admitted he obstructed justice, asking the district attorney to call off the investigation until after a civil case was done.
He also handed off subpoena requests to Pat Pope, even though she was the subject of the investigation.
Records show Lewis used his state issued credit card for a room at Reynolds Plantation Ritz Carlton, which he used exclusively for personal use with a female subordinate accompanying him.
Lewis and Reid were also accused of taking bribes from construction companies, in thousands of
dollars worth of tickets to sporting events, including the Masters golf tournament.
Now, Lewis is expected to testify against Reid and her ex-husband at trial.
That trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 28, but knowing Lewis is now a witness, could certainly alter how Reid and Pope build their defense.
Fleischer did reach one of Pope's attorneys but he said they could not comment because there's a gag order in the case.
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