Man, 18, gets 6 years in robberies at mall, Lake Kittamaqundi

Defendant has long record as a juvenile offender

July 10, 2005|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

For years, Columbia teenager Jeremi Quinton Lewis has been a prolific juvenile offender and had a reputation for absconding from court-ordered confinement.

A Howard County juvenile master worried that without further treatment, Lewis could get into more serious trouble.

Now, at 18, Lewis has been sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to robbing youths at The Mall in Columbia and the Lake Kittamaqundi waterfront.

Before sentencing Lewis on Friday, Howard County Circuit Court Judge Diane O. Leasure called Lewis' most recent crimes "chilling." She told him that if he doesn't change his ways, "you are going to be spending the rest of a very long life in and out of courtrooms."

Lewis, of the 9400 block of Granite Hill, said he was "drunk and high" during the crimes and asked the judge for a "second chance." He said he now has a plan for his life, which includes getting his GED.

"I'm starting to see the light a little bit," he said. "I'm just trying to do something with my life."

Lewis' mother, Alice Lewis, pleaded with the judge that her son not be sent to prison, explaining that she wanted him to have the opportunity to "earn an honest living."

Alice Lewis said her son lacked a strong father figure and first got in trouble with authorities at age 13 when he started skipping school.

"This is his life," she said. "I'm asking that he have the opportunity to have a life and a future. ... I'm just asking he'd be given a chance for a job, future."

But prosecutor Lara C. Weathersbee pointed out that Lewis had ample opportunities to successfully participate in Department of Juvenile Services programs in the past and ran away from group homes or other facilities. She said he was wanted by authorities Oct. 29, when Lewis grabbed two 16-year-olds at the mall and led them outside near the JC Penney store, where they met two others.

Lewis implied he had a knife, robbed the youths and forced one of them back inside the mall to withdraw money from an automatic teller machine, Weathersbee said.

That victim broke away from Lewis, and then Lewis and the two others ran to the waterfront. They robbed five youths ages 12 to 16 and ordered the victims to walk toward the U.S. 29 footbridge overpass, Weathersbee said.

A Howard County police officer was on the other side of the bridge and ordered all of the youths to get on the ground. Lewis lunged at Officer Mary Levy, hitting her in the face and nose before being arrested, Weathersbee said.

"These crimes are particularly significant and demeaning in nature," Weathersbee said. "He assaulted a uniformed police officer, and I find that egregious, as well."

This is Lewis' first time in the adult criminal justice system. However, Weathersbee said he has an "extensive history" with the Department of Juvenile Services.

Lewis' case drew the ire of Howard County Juvenile Master Bernard A. Raum on his last day before retirement in the fall. He expressed his concern about Lewis' future when he excoriated the state's Department of Juvenile Services, claiming it allowed Lewis to be discharged from a substance abuse program after three weeks because an insurance company purportedly would not pay for more treatment.

Raum called the incident a "total abdication of responsibility and authority" by the department, which has not commented on the case.

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