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Magistrate hearing postponed for councilman
Attorney for Gary Lewis had conflict
Gary Lewis for Web
Gary Lewis

      A probable cause hearing scheduled for today to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to issue a warrant against Statesboro City Councilman Gary Lewis for stealing newspapers was postponed.
      Bulloch County Magistrate Court clerk Lynn Sapp said Tuesday the hearing was postponed because Lewis' attorney Kendall Gross, of Metter, has a superior court hearing scheduled for today as well.
      That hearing for superior court takes precedent over a magistrate hearing, she said.
      An independent contractor with the Statesboro Herald, Tony McMillan, seeks to secure a warrant for Lewis' arrest, claiming Lewis stole eight newspapers last month from a dispenser box at Harvey's grocery store on U.S. Highway 80 West.
      Lewis, who has held the District 2 seat since 1998, denies taking more than one newspaper. When asked for a comment Tuesday on the postponement, he said "I can't talk right now." He also would not comment on his choice of attorney or why he required the services of one.
      McMillan said newspapers have been disappearing from the Harvey's box since April. In efforts to identify what was going on, he and Statesboro Herald district service manager C.E. Stricklin began surveillance of the box.
      Statesboro Herald Circulation Director Darrell Elliot said around 10 to 20 papers were being stolen daily, representing up to 50 percent of McMillan's stock. Over time, as they watched the paper box, they "were able to determine that the thefts usually occurred between 8:30 am and 9:30 am Tuesday through Saturday and never on Sunday," he said.
    Using this information, Stricklin began "staking out" the vending machine. One morning in September, he watched as a man took a thick handful of newspapers. He took the man's tag number and gave 911 operators a description of the offender: "a black man in tan clothing."
      Stricklin dialed 911 and talked with an operator as he followed a red Pontiac Solstice, tag number BCD8229, as it made a zig-zag path through town. After he lost sight of the car, he filed a report with Statesboro Police and learned the tag number belonged to Lewis, who drives a red Solstice convertible, a car like the one in which Stricklin saw the offender leave the scene.
       "I have never met Mr. Lewis and did not recognize him (as he was seen at the newspaper box)," he said.
      Lewis told the officer he bought the paper, then went to pick up a client in the Sugar Hill Community, located off West Jones Avenue, where Stricklin lost sight of the car he had been following.
      In a statement to police, Lewis wrote: "I never stole a paper from any box .... I don't have that to do," he wrote. "If anyone saw me take papers they should have felt free to approach then. I surely feel that I'm falsely accused."
      He told the Statesboro Herald "I told the police I took one paper. I don't know what he (Stricklin) is talking about. I'll be glad to go to court."
      Sapp said a new date for the probable cause hearing had not yet been set Tuesday. When the date is set and the hearing is held, a magistrate judge will make the determination whether there is probable cause for a warrant to be issued, according to paperwork given to McMillan regarding the hearing. If the judge determines there is probable cause, Lewis would be charged with a misdemeanor.
      Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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