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Sentencing delayed for man who fled from crash scene

May 13, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A man convicted in March of fleeing from police and crashing his SUV into an off-duty state trooper's car was scheduled to be sentenced Monday, but the hearing was continued because the man was taken into federal custody on unrelated drug charges.

On March 12, a jury found Aaron Lewis, 19, guilty of eight charges, including fleeing from an officer creating injury, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident involving injuries and failure to render aid.

Late last week, Lewis was taken into custody by U.S. marshals following his indictment in U.S. District Court on one count of drug conspiracy and seven counts of distribution of crack cocaine.

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Normally, federal authorities allow state charges to be wrapped up before they begin their case. Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said she did not know why they took Lewis into custody before the sentencing.

Although Lewis remains in Eastern Regional Jail outside Martinsburg, local officials were not permitted to take him to court for his sentencing hearing, Games-Neely said.

"They just grabbed him," Games-Neely said, adding it means the victim must wait even longer for a possible sense of closure. "It would have been over and done with."

Fawn Thomas, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorneys Office, said Lewis was required to be in a federal court hearing a half-hour after his scheduled sentencing in Circuit Court. That, she said, is why he could not be sentenced.

The victim of the car wreck was a former sergeant with the West Virginia State Police, Scott E. Paugh, who was heading home at the time of the head-on crash. Paugh suffered permanent injuries and retired from the state police.

An officer with the Martinsburg Police Department had been chasing Lewis, but the officer stopped the chase at the city limits. The wreck occurred just afterward, at around 11 p.m. on May 29, 2002, on Golf Course Road. After the wreck, Lewis fled on foot, without attempting to help Paugh, according to court records.

Lewis' federal trial on the drug charges is to begin June 12. His sentencing on the charges related to the wreck was rescheduled for June 9.

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