Paul Lewis freed of sex charges
SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Tears of joy streamed down the cheeks of United States-based clergyman Pastor Paul Lewis in the Westmoreland Circuit Court yesterday — relieved that he was freed of sex charges involving two teenage girls.
After approximately two hours of deliberation, the seven-member panel of jurors returned with the not guilty verdict minutes to 3:00 pm.
The verdict was greeted with shouts of joy from Lewis's supporters — who massed outside the courtroom where the in-camera trial took place — and murmurs of displeasure by others, including a policewoman who was heard asking her colleagues "What is the use of DNA then?"
Lewis's acquittal came two years after he was charged with the carnal abuse of a 15-year-old Westmoreland girl and the indecent assault of her 14-year-old friend in his room at a Negril hotel. He was granted bail in the sum of $300,000, which was revoked earlier this month.
The evangelist had visited the island for a one-week crusade hosted by Fellowship Church of God in Little London. He was nabbed by the police as he stepped out of a motor vehicle outside a jam-packed tent, shocking hundreds of congregants awaiting his appearance.
During the preliminary enquiry last October, one of the complainants changed her statement and the police alleged that Lewis, through an intermediary, offered her money.
Lewis was subsequently charged with perverting the course of justice shortly before his appearance in court.
He is scheduled to return to the Savanna-la-Mar Resident Magistrate's Court tomorrow when the matter is scheduled for mention.
Yesterday, after his acquittal of the sex charges, the embattled pastor offered praises to God.
"God is good. God is good. The Lord always told me He will never let me down, and he has never let me down. Thank God it is over," he told the Observer, moments before he was whisked away from the courthouse in a waiting sport utility vehicle.
"He is very happy, very relieved because these were allegations which were hanging over his head for quite some time and he has... the Lord's work to return to. And I believe he can now move (on) and has started to move in that direction," his attorney Keith Bishop told journalists.
Bishop also expressed optimism that his client will also be found not guilty of perverting the course of justice.
"We think we will prevail as well when that time comes," an elated Bishop said.
"We hope, in a positive way, that the authorities might be thinking to withdraw those matters before the court," he added.
Bishop, who from the outset said he knew that he had a strong case, told journalists that his team did what was required in law to impress the jurors. He added that there were several irregularities presented by the Crown.
"As we indicated earlier, there were plenty of inconsistencies and people flip-flopping," he said.
The case was presided over by Justice Leighton Pusey.