- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2002

Eddie Amir Lewis tried his desperate best yesterday morning not to open his eyes. He didn't want to face another day in jail.
He had spent 34 days in the Prince William County Adult Detention Center after being charged April 10 with attempted murder and other counts involved with a late-January armed robbery at a convenience store about five blocks from his house.
On Monday, prosecutors realized they had arrested the wrong man and he was released.
Still, the memory of those days spent in jail for a crime he didn't commit haunted the 18-year-old, who was working for a moving company when he was arrested.
"I said to myself, 'Keep your eyes closed, try to sleep more,' and then I realized, 'Oh, yeah. I'm home now,'" Mr. Lewis said yesterday during an interview at his Manassas house.
On Monday, when Mr. Lewis was being escorted into a Prince William County General District Court courtroom, the store clerk who on Jan 31 was shot twice in the head and once in the torso waved his hands and whispered to his attorney, effectively saying the suspect he had picked out as his assailant was the wrong man.
The preliminary hearing began at 11 a.m. By 11:10 a.m., the court had approved the commonwealth's attorney's request to dismiss all charges against Mr. Lewis. By 6 p.m., more than 20 of his friends and relatives were gathered at his house to enjoy a five-high stack of Pizza Hut pizzas.
These days, a man who had no previous arrest record is savoring his newfound freedom, trying to deal with the media spotlight and re-evaluating his opinions on the criminal-justice system.
"I had nothing to do with [the armed robbery]. It leaves you kind of mixed up with the system," he said as the telephone constantly rang with glad tidings from well-wishers. "When I went to 7-Eleven last night , everyone said, 'That's the guy, that's the guy.'"
The victim identified Mr. Lewis as his assailant from a photo lineup, according to Manassas police Capt. Art Dennis. That random identification was enough for police to obtain an arrest warrant for Mr. Lewis.
It was a routine method of selecting criminals, he said.
"It's a fairly common kind of practice in these kind of cases. We did not do anything improper," Capt. Dennis said. "We thought we had a good case, based on the information we had at the time."
He said Mr. Lewis has been completely cleared of all charges, and added that police now are pursuing other suspects.
"We believe another arrest is imminent," said Paul Ebert, the Prince William County commonwealth's attorney, who made the decision to drop charges against Mr. Lewis.
He said there was a lot of evidence when the victim initially identified Mr. Lewis, but he declined to go into specifics.
But Mr. Lewis' mother said she has her doubts about the law enforcement officials with whom she spoke. She said other facts of the case, such as the description of the suspect as compared with her son's features, and detectives' investigative efforts regarding her son's alibi, just do not match.
"I have no respect for any of them," Wendy Lewis said.
She said she confronted the lead detective after the preliminary hearing, and he told her was just trying to do his job.
"But your job was not done," Mrs. Lewis said she responded.
Mr. Lewis said for now he's relaxing and enjoying the resumption of his freedom. Perhaps sometime down the road he will consult a lawyer. He said he anticipated an apology from the police, but that has not been forthcoming.
Mrs. Lewis said she will continue to stand up for her son.
"They picked up the wrong mother's son," she said as the two shared a high five.


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