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The Public Eye: Former teacher going to prison for child sex crimes

Published: Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012 - 10:31 am

Young boys in Sacramento are safer now that former teacher Preston Lewis will spend 18 years in state prison for child sex crimes as part of a plea deal, said Deputy District Attorney Nancy Cochrane.

Lewis, who taught special education students at Sam Brannan Middle School, will be sentenced Oct. 16 on three felonies and a misdemeanor for molesting one boy, sending sexual text messages to another boy and possessing child pornography.

"He will never teach kids again," said Cochrane, who prosecuted the case. "It was a difficult case, but the resolution protects young people in our community."

Lewis' road to prison was marked with missteps that allowed him to continue teaching more than four years after the state Department of Social Services barred him in 2007 from being employed by, visiting or contacting any facility licensed by the department.

The exclusion action is the most severe action DSS can take, which followed accusations that Lewis, who was a foster parent until 2007, fondled one boy and showered with another child. At the time, the Sacramento County sheriff's investigators did not file a crime report, citing insufficient evidence, and Lewis returned to teaching special-education students.

Sacramento City Unified School District spokesman Gabe Ross said the school district did not know at the time that the state had revoked Lewis' foster care license and barred him from their facilities. The lapse in communication prompted calls for legislation, but a bill addressing the issue died in committee earlier this year.

Lewis has remained in Sacramento County jail awaiting trial since his arrest in April 2011. He was arrested on six counts of lewd acts with a 7-year-old foster child in his care between 2004-05 and one count of communicating with a 14-year-old student in 2010 with the intent to commit a sexual offense.

A Bee investigation last year found Lewis had been accused of inappropriate behavior as a teacher on three occasions, including twice after the state revoked his foster care license in 2007.

"I'm still extremely disappointed that Mr. Lewis was allowed to teach after he had several complaints lodged against him," said the mother of the 14-year-old boy whom Lewis was charged with sending sexual text messages to in 2010.

The Bee is not naming the woman in order to protect the identity of her son.

The accusations involving the 14-year-old, who was a special-education student in Lewis' class, were included in the charges that Lewis pleaded no contest to on Tuesday.

"When foster care, a state agency, revokes someone's license, you would think all these state departments would talk to each other," the woman said. "But he continued to teach."

Between 2007 and 2010, the Sacramento City Unified School District placed Lewis on paid administrative leave three times after separate allegations of inappropriate behavior. Those allegations included a father alerting school officials that Lewis refused to stop calling and picking his son up on weekends and a female student who said Lewis allowed boys to watch pornography during class on their cellphones.

Lewis spent a total of 14 months on paid leave between 2007 and 2011 and was paid $87,000 during that time.

For two weeks after Lewis was arrested, he remained on paid leave and was paid $347 a day while at Sacramento County jail.

With Lewis' plea deal, Ross said the judicial process worked.

"This is an opportunity for closure for students involved and their families," Ross said. "We are glad there is a resolution and we can all move on."

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Read more articles by Melody Gutierrez

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