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UPDATE: NAACP Responds To D.A.'s Response Over Lewis Case

By: Brittany Gunter
By: Brittany Gunter

The president of the Pitt County Chapter of the NAACP has written a response to comments made to WITN by District Attorney Clark Everett about the Phillip Lewis murder case. Calvin Henderson's letter is addressed to the editor of the Daily Reflector, Al Clark, though Henderson sent a copy to WITN as well.

Dear Mr. Clark:

The purpose of this letter is to provide clarification for the purpose of our September 17th press conference at the NAACP headquarters. It was disingenuous for Pitt County District Attorney Clark Everett to suggest that the press conference was a free James Richardson rally. James Richardson’s mother was there to underscore the fact that our criminal justice system needs to be overhauled in a way so as to promote basic fairness for all involved parties regardless of race, gender, socio-economic class, or otherwise. As was stated at the press conference, Lady Justice is not always colorblind in practice.

Regarding Richardson, I sat inside Superior Court Judge’s Russell Duke court during that trial and witnessed that the prosecutor’s case was largely based on circumstantial evidence, not direct evidence. Mr. Richardson had already been convicted by the news media and public opinion (largely from white citizens) before his court date. Something is wrong with this picture. Further, our press conference was really about how race, class, and wealth often determine how defendants will be treated in court. Independent court observers, legal scholars, and many criminologists would agree that the players in the court room have mindsets, prejudices, and practices which reflect those from society at large. In other words, those prejudices and discriminatory practices sometimes find their way from outside the court to the inside.

Although critics wish to talk about an emotionally-charged, race-baiting case like the James Richardson matter, the NAACP will move forward and reject the red herring bait. We will maintain our focus on the prize—working towards that day when all of God’s children are, as Dr. Martin Luther King would put it, judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin.

For the record, we believe that since Phillip Lewis left a heated altercation at Pirates Cove Apartments and went home to get three high-powered firearms just to return to the scene of the initial altercation regarding Mr. Falcone, he should have been charged with first-degree, premeditated cold-blooded murder. Also, our position is that Phillip Lewis’ family’s wealth and long-standing community status played in the district attorney’s decision to allow for a voluntary manslaughter plea, a gross miscarriage of justice and an insult to the decedent’s family. Let’s face it. The criminal justice system should not have allowed this. Lewis’ lawyers did what they were paid to do. I don’t blame the lawyers. I blame the system which needs to be reformed in a way that will provide equitable justice for all citizens involved. Finally, we will challenge and report any local judge (like Superior Court Judge Duke) and district attorney who appear to undermine justice and make decisions based on stereotypes, a defendant’s race, class, or financial disposition.

Sincerely,

Calvin Henderson
NAACP President

PREVIOUS STORY:
Pitt County District Attorney Clark Everett returned calls from WITN Monday to respond to our request for reaction to NAACP's claims that the sentence for Phillip Lewis' guilty plea for voluntary manslaughter is unfair and the group's comparison to the murder trial for James Richardson.

"There is absolutely no comparison between the James Richardson case and the Phillip Lewis case. In the Richardson case the defendant fired 6 times into a crowd of people and killed 2 innocent bystanders. It had very little to do with claims of self defense as in the Lewis case," said Everett

On the claim that the punishment was less severe for Lewis because of his family's wealth and status in the community Everett said, "Richardson had 4 lawyers, Lewis had 2 lawyers. It is an insult to the families of the victims in the Richardson case to compare the two."

Everett says from what he saw of the NAACP news conference, "It seemed to be more of a free James Richardson rally than about justice in Pitt County."

PREVIOUS STORY:
The man who pleaded guilty to killing a former ECU student is now in a state prison, three days after he was sentenced. This as the NAACP denounced his prison sentence.

Phillip Lewis turned himself in at the Pitt County Detention Center at 9 a.m. Monday, as instructed by the judge who sentenced him on Thursday for the death of Tommy Falcone.

Lewis appeared at the jail with his father. He was searched by detention officers and taken into custody. Lewis was later transported to the Craven Correctional Institution to be processed into the state prison system.

Lewis remained free on bond for the two years leading up to his trial and was allowed to go home for the weekend before beginning his sentence Monday.

Lewis took a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to the voluntary manslaughter of Falcone in 2010. He was sentenced to a minimum 3 years, 2 months and a maximum of 4 years, 7 months in prison.

Three hours after he turned himself in, the NAACP spoke out about his plea deal. Local NAACP president Calvin Henderson says they are shocked over how the case was handled. "There is no justice in the courtroom," said Henderson. "We feel today that everything that was done inside that courtroom was to benefit Mr. Lewis."

Henderson says because of Lewis' wealth and family status in the community, his punishment was less severe than others who were charged with murder. The NAACP says Lewis was allowed to remain free on bond for two years pending trial, a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter was accepted, the judge allowed Lewis to delay the start of his sentence until today and he also recommended Lewis be allowed work release.

While the judge recommended work release, a Department of Public Safety spokesman tells WITN that ultimately it's the decision made by the Department of Correction. The spokesman says sometimes it can take years for inmates to meet requirements for work release.

Multiple calls to District Attorney Clark Everett were not returned.



Previous Story

A Greenville man who pleaded guilty to killing a former ECU student is due to report to the Pitt County Sheriff's Office Monday to begin serving his sentence.

On Thursday a judge sentenced Phillip Lewis to serve a minimum 3 years, 2 months and a maximum of 4 years, 7 months in prison.

Lewis pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to voluntary manslaughter in a Pitt County courtroom. He admitted killing Tommy Falcone in August 2010 after two groups of college-age men had an argument.

Judge Wayland Sermons denied a defense request for him to consider extraordinary mitigation, which would have allowed the judge to sentence Lewis to less than the state required minimum.

The sentencing hearing lasted two days. Thursday afternoon Lewis broke down on the witness stand, telling the judge he never intended to shoot or hurt anyone that night.


Previous Story

A Greenville man who yesterday pleaded guilty to killing a former ECU student broken down on the witness stand this afternoon.

Phillip Lewis told the judge he never intended to shoot or hurt anyone that night.

Lewis pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to voluntary manslaughter in a Pitt County courtroom. He admitted killing Tommy Falcone in August 2010 after two groups of college-age men had an argument.

Lewis cried after being asked how he felt when he found out that Falcone was killed. He said he couldn't explain it. Falcone's mother, also in the courtroom, was visibly upset.

Lewis recounted what happened that August night when Falcone and his friends rode back to Copper Beech Apartments from downtown in his pickup truck.

On the stand, Lewis admitted to snorting Adderall that night, saying it helped to wake him up. Adderall is a prescription drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.

Lewis told the court that after they dropped off Falcone and his friends at Copper Beech, they were leaving the apartment complex when one of Falcone's friends flipped him off.

The defendant said one of his friends got out of the truck and ended up getting in to a fight with Falcone's friend. He says his truck was damaged at that point.

Lewis says he went home and called a friend saying he wanted to go back to Copper Beech to get paperwork on his truck damage or file a police report. He admitted grabbing his guns and told the judge he was scared that if he went back, he wouldn't have any control if another fight broke out.

Lewis testified that he didn't want to shoot or hurt anyone, that he planned to go try to talk with the men and ask them to pay for the damage to his truck.

Back at Copper Beech, Lewis told the judge that he saw a man with a golf club run out from the bushes at him. He says he fired the gun one time, but didn't deliberately point the gun at the person. Lewis said 30 seconds later police arrived.

Lewis, who was released on a half million dollar bond, faces between three and nine years in prison because he has no prior convictions. Lewis' lawyer asked the judge to consider extraordinary mitigation in sentencing, meaning that if allowed the man could be sentenced less than the required minimum.

Prosecutors spent all day Wednesday putting on evidence before the judge sentences the man. This morning Lewis' attorneys began presenting their own evidence.

We have a reporter in the courtroom and will update this story with new developments.


Previous Story

A man accused of a Greenville murder that happened more than two years ago has pleaded guilty this morning to a lesser charge.

Phillip Lewis was charged with the August 2010 shooting death of Tommy Falcone. The body of the former ECU student was found in a parking lot of Pirates Cove Apartments on East 10th Street. He had been shot in the back.

This morning it was announced before Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons that Lewis would plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

Several rows in the courtroom are full of family members from both sides. Lewis has been free on a half million dollar bond and if he has no prior convictions he could serve between three years and just under nine years in prison.

Prosecutors are now presenting evidence in the sentencing of Lewis, which officials say could take a large part of the day.

The fatal shooting happened after police say two groups of college-aged men got into a dispute on East 10th Street.

So far two friends of the victim testified they had been drinking with Falcone in downtown Greenville before returning to Copper Beech. Another friend came in and said he had been jumped, so they went outside. Falcone took a golf club, according to his friends, while others got cement blocks as they looked for a white pickup truck.

A Greenville police detective later testified that he found Lewis with an assault rifle, and Lewis told the officer he "had to shoot".


Previous Story

A man accused of a Greenville murder that happened more than two years ago is scheduled to appear before a Superior Court judge tomorrow.

Phillip Lewis is charged with the August 2010 shooting death of Tommy Falcone. The body of the former ECU student was found in a parking lot of Pirates Cove Apartments on East 10th Street. He had been shot in the back.

Lewis' attorney claimed his client had been threatened, his truck damaged by a friend of the victim and was told by police to return to the area before the fatal shooting happened.

Lewis has been free on a half million dollar bond.

Authorities will not say what will happen at the hearing while his trial had been set to begin next Monday.


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