Suspended city police officer John W. Lewis was in treatment Monday, a day after his latest alcohol-related arrest, his attorney said.
Lewis, 39, of Oregon Avenue, was arrested there early Sunday, accused of destroying items and fighting with his brother. He faces one count of misdemeanor criminal mischief.
It was Lewis’ fifth arrest since April 2008. He is currently on suspension without pay after his fourth arrest, a drunk driving charge, from last month. All the incidents have been in the city.
Lewis was arraigned on the charge Sunday in City Court and released on his own recognizance, an arrangement similar to those made after his previous arrests.
He was to appear for further proceedings Monday on the new charge, as well as his other charges, but he did not appear. Instead, his attorney Michael Horan told City Court Judge Guido Loyola that Lewis could not make the appearance as he is receiving treatment at St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam.
He usually goes two days a week for outpatient treatment, but he has been admitted, possibly for as long as two to four weeks, Horan told the court.
Horan did not elaborate afterward on the purpose of the treatment, but officials have alleged that alcohol was involved in at least his two most recent arrests. St. Mary’s has an alcohol treatment center.
Lewis has been off the job since at least April on varying stints of paid and unpaid suspension. He has received 30 days unpaid suspension after each arrest. The 30-day suspension on his drunk driving arrest hasn’t elapsed, Police Chief Mark Chaires confirmed Monday. Chaires said he expected further administrative action when that time has elapsed.
Despite arrest after arrest, Lewis has remained officially employed. City officials have cited the vagaries of an ongoing legal battle with the police union over discipline as the reason he continues.
Chaires Monday could not definitively say Lewis would no longer be a patrolman.
“That’s definitely a possible outcome of all this,” Chaires said. “But it’s pretty clear which direction this is headed.”
The city has used Lewis’ case, even before the most recent arrest, as an example of why the current discipline system is broken.
City officials fired him in 1998 over allegations he used a racial slur off duty, behind police headquarters. The city, however, was ordered to rehire him when an arbitrator ruled the city was “unduly harsh” in firing him.
Lewis was arrested early Sunday after a call to police by his mother, Chaires said.
The mother reported Lewis was intoxicated and tearing up the house. He was also arguing and fighting with his brother, James Lewis, who is an Albany police officer. James Lewis was trying to control his brother until police arrived.
Lewis was first charged in April with the violation of harassment of his estranged wife. The case stemmed from allegations that he grabbed and pushed his wife during a dispute over their child. He was acquitted of that in June in a City Court trial.
In the meantime, he was also charged with a more serious count of criminal contempt, accused of violating an order of protection issued in the harassment case. In that case, he is accused of phoning the woman several times, driving by her and going to her workplace. The contempt case remains pending.
He was also charged in November with threatening to kill his ex-wife. The divorce was final in September.
His fourth incident was just over two weeks ago, a drunken driving arrest. He was accused of driving with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.18 and hitting a parked car on Eastern Avenue just before 4:30 a.m. Dec. 27.
The arrests have generated a number of court appearances, including some where Lewis didn’t show up, while offering excuses, prosecutor Christina Tremante told Loyola in court. She asked Loyola to issue a bench warrant for Lewis because he wasn’t in court Monday, despite Horan’s representations that Lewis was in treatment.
Loyola left open the question Monday, ordering Horan to provide documentation that Lewis is where Horan said he is by the end of the business day today. If the papers aren’t received, a warrant will be issued, Loyola said.