NOPD sergeant awaits verdict in trial for death of his police dog

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wwltv.com

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mikeperlstein

New Orleans police sergeant Randy Lewis will have to wait one more week to hear the verdict in the malfeasance case against him.

Criminal Court Judge Ben Willard heard closing arguments today, with prosecutors saying Lewis covered up the death of his police dog Phantom who plunged 17 stories down an elevator shaft at the old Charity Hospital.

Lewis's attorney, Eric Hessler, argued that any violations by Lewis were merely administrative, not criminal.

Willard’s decision to take the case under advisement until next Friday marks the second week-long delay in the 2009 case against Lewis. Testimony and evidence was presented to Willard last Friday, but the judge saved closing arguments until today.

Using an array of charts and documents, prosecutors Bobby Freeman and Christopher Bowman hammered home their contention that Lewis lied about the nature of the private security detail at Charity Hospital in which his dog Phantom fell to his death.

Phantom was taking part in the private security sweep of the shuttered hospital in May 2009 when he broke free from Lewis in the darkened high-rise and fell down the elevator shaft.

Freeman said Lewis falsified an approval form required for the detail, failing to get permission to use a police dog for the job. After the tragic accident, Freeman said Lewis covered up the detail by saying he was engaged in a training exercise.

After Phantom’s body was recovered, Freeman and Bowman argued, Lewis destroyed criminal evidence by having the dog’s corpse destroyed before it could be examined.

“Motivated by greed, he launched into a cover-up,” Bowman argued.

Hessler countered by saying Lewis had obtained permission from a superior officer to use the canine. After the accident, there could not have been destruction of evidence because there was no crime.

“What crime scene are we talking about here?” Hessler asked. “It’s an accident scene. Since when is a departmental policy a criminal violation?”
 

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