Judge: Antun Lewis sentenced to 35 years in prison

CLEVELAND -- Late Friday, convicted arsonist Antun Lewis, 30, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for setting a house fire that killed 9 people.

The prosecutors and the the victims' families had asked for life in prison.

Lewis was found guilty twice by federal juries.

It was the deadliest fire in Cleveland's history when Medeia Carter, 33, four of her children and four other children attending a 14th-birthday sleepover died on May 21, 2005 at an East 87th Street home.

Four victims spoke. There was powerful and graphic testimony from Battallion Fire Chief Patrick Mangan who described the hellish sights , sounds and smells of the deadly inferno.

Two of the victims' grandmothers described the daily pain of dealing with young lives lost and trying to find the children's bodies at the Coroner's office on that tragic night.

Rules against cameras in a Federal Court kept the public from seeing the moving statements.

One victim's father said Lewis should be placed in a giant and oil-filled skilled and suffer excruciating burns.

"This defendant is responsible for taking nine innocent lives. A coward in the night, he also stole the hopes and dreams of these families, who will never get to experience high school graduations, weddings, or the other things they had a right to enjoy. Nothing can ever erase the pain this defendant caused, and our hearts go to them all. Their grace and dignity in the face of this tragedy is humbling," said U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach.

"This sentence brings some closure to a horrific and senseless crime," said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Michael Boxler.

"It is my hope that this sentencing will bring some comfort to the families of the victims. I also want to compliment the United States Attorney's Office for their leadership in the prosecution of this difficult case, and I want to thank the Cleveland Fire Department, the Cleveland Division of Police, the Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office, and the ATF personnel who worked jointly to perfect this investigation."

In that house fire, killed were: Fakih Jones, age 7; Malee'ya Williams, age 12; Shauntavia Mitchell, age 12; Earnest Tate, Jr., age 13; Miles Golden Cockfield, age 13; Antwon Jackson, Jr., age 14; Moses Williams Jr., age 14; Devonte Carter, age 15, and Medeia Carter, 33.

Lewis has always said he didn't do it but prosecutors never established a clear motive. There were suggestions he may have set the to settle a drug debt or because he was angry with a woman who kept some of his clothing.

Lewis offered condolences to the victim's family but repeated his innocence.

U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver had already removed the death penalty as a sentence because of Lewis's low IQ.

Judge Oliver called this his "most difficult case." He said he made the lesser sentence because of Lewis's intellectual disability.

Lewis will get credit for time already served so his sentence will be less than 35 years.

Outside the court, a tearful grandmother, Rosalind Golden said she did not understand how Lewis sentence could be only five years per victim.

The case was prosecuted by Federal authorities who technically had jurisdiction because the home was a Federally owned Section 8 property and ATF agents did much of the investigation.

But sources say the back story is that then-County Prosecutor Bill Mason did not believe the case was strong enough and did not want to try a weak case that might not convict the chief suspect in the crime.

Lewis's defense team members said they would continue to stand by him.


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