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Ex-Officer's Absolute Discharge Over Child Porn

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

FORMER police officer Edmund “EJ” Lewis Jr has been granted an absolute discharge for his conviction relating to producing child pornography videos between 2014 and 2015.

According to a certificate of discharge signed by Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Forbes, the former constable was granted an absolute discharge as of November 13.

The 33-year-old had fully complied with the terms of the conditional discharge that magistrate imposed after finding him guilty on one count of child pornography two years ago.

That fact necessitated yesterday’s dismissal of the Crown’s appeal against his “unduly lenient” sentence, as an absolute discharge effectively means there is no sentence to challenge.

Lewis Jr previously stood trial before Deputy Chief Magistrate Forbes concerning allegations he produced child pornography videos between July 2014 and January 21, 2015.

He was first arraigned on January 23, 2015 and denied bail. He was dismissed from the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) shortly after the charges were filed against him.

Lewis Jr elected to be tried in the Magistrate’s Court and was granted $5,000 bail days after being re-arraigned due to an “inadvertent error” at his first court appearance, when he should have been given the option to be tried in either the Magistrate’s Court or Supreme Court and enter a plea to the charges.

In February of 2016, the court heard how Lewis Jr admitted, in his record of interview with police, to filming his sexual encounters with a teenage girl he met in September 2014. However, Lewis Jr said he thought the girl was older than 17 and she consented to being filmed.

According to the record of interview, taken in January 2015, Lewis Jr was asked by a senior officer about allegations that he secretly filmed his sexual interaction with the complainant in the matter.

Lewis Jr said the sexual interactions between the two began in September of 2014. In response to questions by the interviewing officer, Lewis Jr said he recorded the interactions on his Samsung Galaxy S2 cellphone in his room on two occasions, and that the complainant was aware.

He further denied soliciting anyone or secretly filming sex, adding that “everything was consensual”.

When asked by the interviewing officer why he filmed their encounters, Lewis Jr allegedly said: “We both agreed to it and it was fun,” adding that it was for sexual gratification.

And when asked if anyone else was involved, Lewis Jr said there was a 19-year-old whom he met sometime in October 2014 and had sex with both females. However, he denied filming the acts without their permission.

When asked by the interviewing officer what he subsequently did with the contents, Lewis Jr said he “took the chip out of the phone and secured it.”

In a ruling on November 13, 2017, Deputy Chief Magistrate Forbes granted Lewis Jr a conditional discharge of two years after he was found guilty on the one count of child pornography.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Forbes said during those two years, Lewis Jr would be required to attend the Department of Social Services, specifically the Domestic Violence Unit (DVU) and perform 50 hours of community service.

And upon full compliance and completion of the order, he would be given an absolute discharge.

The Office of the Attorney General subsequently filed an appeal against the ruling on the grounds that the sentence was “unduly lenient”. However, the issue that arose was whether the crown could appeal a conditional discharge.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Magistrate Forbes left the Magistrate’s Court and served as an acting justice of the Supreme Court for a stint.

Fast-forward to November 13 of this year, Deputy Chief Magistrate Forbes, who had since returned to the Magistrate’s Court, issued a certificate of (absolute) discharge to Lewis Jr due to the former officer complying with all of the conditions.

However, the decision was read by another magistrate.

Yesterday, during what was supposed to be the substantive hearing of the crown’s appeal against Lewis Jr’s sentence, the appellate tribunal of Justices Jon Isaacs, Sir Michael Barnett, and Milton Evans, told the prosecution that given Lewis Jr’s absolute discharge, it could not appeal a sentence that effectively does not exist.

The prosecution indicated that it still intended to proceed with the matter, and was prepared to “start all over again” if need be. However, as noted by the appellate judges, that meant the crown would end up filing its appeal out of time and apply for an extension of time within which to appeal; it had until November 20 of this year to appeal the absolute discharge.

And according to Sir Michael, the crown would thus be hard pressed to justify the delay, given that it should have anticipated the possibility that Lewis Jr would comply with his conditions and be given an absolute discharge, and thus be prepared for such an eventuality on or around November 13 and appeal in a timely fashion.

Thus, Justice Isaacs said as there was “no real appeal” before him and his fellow Justices, the “purported appeal” was dismissed.

Lewis Jr was represented by attorney Ryszard Humes.

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