Detroiter cleared of terrorist threats against cops

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News
Stuart Horatio Lewis is charged with threat of terrorism, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, and malicious destruction of a building near Exeter and West State Fair.

Detroit — A judge Tuesday dismissed a terrorism charge against a 43-year-old Detroit man accused of making threats against city police.

Judge Deborah Lewis Langston of 36th District Court dropped the threat of terrorism count relating to the discovery Oct. 21 of graffiti reading “kill all cops” and “kill James Craig" on a building across the street from Lewis' home at Exeter and West State Fair.

Stuart Horatio Lewis instead was bound over on malicious destruction of property and possession of marijuana.

"There isn't any dispute that the message is violent and hateful and against the law of the state 'kill the police', but (the law) doesn't say that the message has to be hateful," Langston said. "It says an act that would be a violent felony. The only act I heard that Mr. Lewis did was to spray some hateful hateful language on that wall. I'm going to dismiss the terrorism charge. I don't think the people have made their case in this matter."

In a separate case, Lewis was bound over as charged with felonious assault and felony firearm with a pneumatic gun after he allegedly pointed a BB gun at a man who tried to repossess his truck around 4:20 p.m. Oct. 17 in the 19900 block of Exeter.

He is due back in court Dec. 20 for hearings. He was given bonds of $25,000 or 10 percent for each case. If released, he must wear a GPS tether and have no contact with victims.

"It's not over, but we're happy today," Lewis' defense attorney, Angela Peterson, said of the judge dismissing the terrorism charge.

Officials on Tuesday combined the cases into one preliminary examination, switching back and forth between the incidents. The prosecutor was setting the stage for an argument that Lewis' earlier arrest for assault sparked enough anger toward police for him to create the threatening graffiti found four days later.

A former friend of Lewis' provided the day's most emotional testimony. The woman, whom the court ordered media not to identify, once lived with Lewis and has known him for 13 years. She is familiar with his handwriting, she said.

The woman walked the court through a 2013 incident in which Lewis allegedly twice painted graffiti on neighborhood buildings, claiming she had AIDS. The woman said she recognized his handwriting at the time from their years of friendship.

"Upset. Very mad. Upset," she said of her reaction to the inflammatory writings. "I automatically knew from when I first got the call that it was Stuart. Because that's Stuart's MO. That's something Stuart does."

The woman examined pictures of the 2013 graffiti alongside this year's threat against police, pointing out what she called identical handwriting styles. She specifically noted simliar lettering and a mixture of upper- and lowercase letters.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig, named in one of the threats, made a surprise appearance in court Tuesday to testify.

"With the (recent) anti-police rhetoric, certainly I take all threats seriously," Craig said of being named in the threat. "But I was more concerned about the officers that may make contact at some point with a suspect responsible for making that writing."

In earlier testimony, a man working for a repossession company took the stand to testify about an alleged assault at the hands of Lewis. Media was ordered not to photograph or identify the man.

The witness told the court he was confronted by an armed Lewis while trying to repossess his truck.

"He ran in (the house) and got the shotgun and ran back out. I'm fearing for my life," the man said.

Lewis allegedly ordered the employee to surrender the truck.

"He said, 'Put my truck down or I'm going to blow your (expletive) head off,' " the man said.

The prosecutor and defense attorney each questioned the man extensively about his uniform and tow truck, trying to establish whether Lewis would have known the man was from a legitimate repossession business.

As the man insisted his truck was outfitted with visible signs and his was wearing a "Repo Man" sweatshirt, Lewis vigorously shook his head at the defense table, but remained silent.

Several officers testified throughout the day, focusing on various points in the timeline between Lewis' first arrest Oct. 17 for assault and the Oct. 21 discovery of threatening graffiti. One officer detailed the assault arrest, another testified about Lewis' release from jail Oct. 19, while a sergeant examined grainy surveillance footage allegedly showing Lewis approach a wall the night before the graffiti was discovered there.

The sergeant testified the shadowy figure in the footage matched Lewis' body type. But on cross examination, she admitted a deputy in the room also had a similar build.

That sergeant went on to detail the execution of a search warrant at Lewis' home. Inside, investigators recovered marijuana packaged for sale, along with a bottle of silver spray paint in the kitchen and a paint-covered shirt in the trash outside.

Lewis' defense attorney ignored the marijuana and shirt discoveries but seized upon the silver paint. The threatening graffiti, she said, was written in black and white paint.

Neither color was discovered in Lewis' home, according to testimony.

Lewis has denied involvement in the threatening graffiti. His uncle, 73-year-old John Lewis, has supported his nephew in court and told The Detroit News his family member “doesn’t have a violent bone in his body.”

But the younger Lewis has a lengthy criminal record, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections, beginning with a 1985 arrest for false pretenses. In later years, he was arrested for larceny from a motor vehicle, unlawfully driving away in an automobile, receiving and concealing, and on controlled substance charges, according to Corrections officials.

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Staff writer Candice Williams contributed.