A mistrial has been declared in the case of a Calverton man charged with murder following allegations his defense attorney tampered with a witness, federal court records show.
Lawrence Lewis, a 37-year-old alleged Bloods gang member who lives in Calverton, had been on trial since Nov. 13 in connection with a July 2017 killing outside of a Deer Park gentleman’s club. The trial came to an abrupt halt last Monday, Nov. 25, when prosecutors alleged in Eastern District Court of New York that Mr. Lewis’ attorney, Christopher Cassar of Huntington, had sent a text message to a prosecution witness who was about to give testimony at trial, records show. A federal prosecutor said Mr. Cassar, who admitted to the court that he sent the message, is now the subject of an investigation.
Judge Joanna Seybert disqualified the attorney from the case and declared a mistrial.
Prosecutors said Mr. Cassar sent the witness, who is a friend of the defendant, a text message with a link to a New York Post article about a police officer who accidentally shot himself in the groin. The defense in the case, had advanced a theory that John Birt, the victim in the July 29, 2017 murder outside Illusion’s in Deer Park, accidentally shot himself.
“At this juncture, based on the texts you sent to the witness, it appears that there could be no other reasonable explanation than to corrupt the witness with your version of the facts,” Judge Seybert told Mr. Cassar, according to a transcript of last week’s proceedings.
Mr. Lewis was charged with murder, as well as other weapons and drug charges, after he allegedly shot Mr. Birt, who was posing for a photo outside of the club that evening. The shooting followed a fight that ensued when an associate of Mr. Lewis’ flashed a gang sign in the photo Mr. Birt was taking with friends.
Mr. Lewis, who remains in custody and is facing life in prison, was ordered to find a new attorney, though he objected to Mr. Cassar being removed during last week’s proceedings. He is due back in court Dec. 16.