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Man Who Executed Dog With A Gun in 1998 Sentenced To 6.25 Years In Prison

Michael-Lewis head shot

   SENTENCED: Michael “Rambo” Lewis 

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A 36-year-old St. Thomas man was sentenced to 6.25 years in prison today for being a convicted felon in possession of a gun.

Michael Lewis was given 75 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez today for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to U.S. Attorney Ronald Sharpe.

Lewis was also ordered by Judge Gomez to serve three years of supervised release for the same crime, Sharpe said.

In addition, Judge Gomez said Lewis must  pay a $100 special assessment and perform 400 hours of community service.

On October 28, 2015, Lewis pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

According to the plea agreement filed with the court on June 23, 2015, officers from the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) attempted to conduct a field interview with Lewis who took off running.

As Lewis was running from VIPD officers, a butt of a firearm was seen protruding from his front right pocket. He was later apprehended in a residence where he had discarded three firearms.

VIPD officers recovered those firearms. Lewis is a convicted felon and cannot legally possess a firearm in the Virgin Islands. He has three prior felony convictions, two for unauthorized possession of a firearm and one for third degree assault, all in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands.

“A great example of local and federal agencies working together to remove armed felons from the streets of our communities,” said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Carlos Canino.

The case was investigated jointly by the ATF and the VIPD. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte.

On the morning of September 29, 1998, Lieutenant Randolph DeSuza of the Virgin Islands Police Department was on duty at the Callwood Command police station on Norre Gade in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. At approximately 2:15 a.m., a vehicle stopped in front of the station.

The driver, later identified as Lewis, jumped out of the vehicle and began yelling that someone had shot his friend, Mackellis George (“George”). Lieutenant DeSuza went outside and found George injured in the vehicle. Lieutenant DeSuza then instructed Lewis to follow his police car to the hospital and telephoned the George family to inform them of the shooting.

At the hospital, Lieutenant DeSuza and members of the George family questioned Lewis about the shooting. Lewis stated that *33 there had been a drive-by shooting and provided conflicting details about the make and model of the vehicle.

Lewis told George’s mother he did not see the color or make of the vehicle. Later, Lewis told a detective that the car was white. Thereafter, Lewis told a police officer that the car was a blue four-door.

While at the hospital, the police overheard Lewis’ grandmother stating that Lewis had shot a dog that day. The police recovered the body of the dog and brought it to the morgue. Bullet comparisons by the F.B.I. showed that the bullet removed from the dog was fired from the same gun that shot George. George later died in the hospital.

Lewis was thereafter charged with first degree murder, in violation of title 14, section 922(a) of the Virgin Islands Code (“Section 922(a)”), and unlawful possession of a firearm, in violation of title 14, section 2253 of the Virgin Islands Code (“Section 2253”).3 The Superior Court conducted Lewis’ trial between January 28, and February 1, 2002.

Count one of the Information charged Lewis with murder in the first degree, in violation of title 14, section 922(a)(1) of the Virgin Islands Code. Count two of the Information charged Lewis with unauthorized possession of a firearm, in violation of title 14, section 2253 of the Virgin Islands Code.

At trial Lewis testified that on one evening in 1998, shortly after Hurricane Georges, George gave him alcohol and then sexually assaulted him. Although he avoided George after the incident, Lewis claimed that he was accosted by George when he returned to George’s residence to gather his belongings on the *44 evening of September 28, 1998.

According to Lewis, George pulled out a gun, began firing shots into the ground, and ordered Lewis to get into his vehicle. Lewis stated that once in the vehicle, George began berating Lewis for telling people that George was a homosexual. Lewis denied the allegations. George nonetheless continued to threaten Lewis with the gun.

Lewis testified that he grabbed the gun to wrestle it from George when the gun fired and shot George a number of times. Lewis further testified that after the shooting, he had decided to fabricate a story that George had been injured by a drive-by shooting. Lewis explained that he threw the gun and George’s ripped shirt in a garbage dump and drove George to the police station.

On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Lewis about the history of his street nickname, “Rambo.” Lewis explained that his friends had given him the name because he would often bring a Rambo-style hunting knife to middle school. Defense counsel objected, claiming that the prosecution was presenting improper character evidence. The trial judge sustained the objection. The trial judge subsequently instructed the jury as follows:

[THE COURT]: I struck from the record a matter in which a reference was made to the defendant having a knife. During your deliberations, you are not to consider those things at all. . . .
(Trial Tr. 249, Jan. 31, 2002.)

Following closing arguments, both parties submitted proposed jury instructions to the judge. At the defense attorney’s *55 request, the judge included a self-defense instruction regarding the murder charge. However, the defense attorney did not request a justification instruction for the unauthorized possession charge and the judge did not give such an instruction.

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Lewis not guilty of first degree murder and guilty of unauthorized possession of a firearm.
Lewis timely appealed from his conviction, raising the following issues: (1) whether the Superior Court erred in failing to instruct the jury regarding temporary justified possession of a handgun for self-defense; (2) whether Lewis’ trial attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel; (3) whether the Superior Court erred by allowing the prosecutor to ask questions about irrelevant and prejudicial maters; and (4) whether Lewis was improperly sentenced.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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