A 24-year-old SUNY Fredonia graduate who did student teaching in Dunkirk and Silver Creek has been found guilty by a jury in Onondaga County for sex crimes involving two 15-year-old girls in 2011 and 2012.
According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Arthur R. Lewis, who earned a bachelor's degree in music education at Fredonia State in 2012 and a master's degree in music performance and conducting in 2014, was found guilty earlier this month of third-degree rape, forcible touching and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The crimes occurred in the town of Manlius in 2011 and 2012. Lewis is a high school graduate of Fayetteville-Manlius High School.
He is now in jail waiting for his sentencing.
Arthur R. Lewis
The Post-Standard reports Lewis met his first victim at Eagle Hill Middle School in 2010 when he was completing his classroom observation hours for his teaching degree. Eagle Hill is in the Fayetteville-Manlius School District.
Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Cali told the Post-Standard the two exchanged contact information while he was at the school and later developed a romantic relationship. Cali said no crimes were committed at the school or while Lewis was observing in the classroom.
The victim testified in court that she had a willing sexual relationship with Lewis when she was 15 and 16 years old. The age of consent in New York state is 17. Lewis was 21 years old at the time.
"We have no reason to believe that SUNY Fredonia did not follow those protocols when placing Mr. Lewis."
Charges were not filed with the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office until August 2012, which was about eight months after police began investigating Lewis' actions involving another 15-year-old girl.
Michael Barone, Fredonia's director of public relations, confirmed Lewis was placed at Silver Creek Elementary School as a student teacher in spring 2012 and later at Dunkirk High School that same semester. These two placements were following the observation periods in Manlius. "It's obviously very disappointing and we hope that ... he learns from this and makes a recovery to have a full career and not make the same mistake again," Barone said.
In order to be placed by Fredonia in local school districts, the campus follows every protocol for teaching and background checks which varies from district to district. Barone said he has checked with the education department, music department, judicial affairs and campus police and there is no record of any wrongdoing by Lewis on campus.
"There has been nothing here on our campus that indicated that he was any sort of risk to anybody. We've talked with his faculty adviser ... he never witnessed anything outside of professional behavior from (Lewis). There was nothing on our end that would indicate he was any sort of problem or risk," Barone said.
According to the Post-Standard, Lewis met the second girl in the summer of 2011 after he was already engaging in a sexual relationship with his first victim. Lewis was 21 years old at the time and the second girl was 15 years old. He met her during a community event in the summer of 2011.
The prosecutor said Lewis used his position in the school and in the community event to prey on underage females.
Fayetteville-Manlius Superintendent Corliss Kaiser told the newspaper that Lewis was an observer in a classroom in the middle school. He did not directly teach any classes at Eagle Hill Middle School and was never left unsupervised with students.
Colleges and universities run background checks, which include fingerprinting, on all students before the college or university recommends those students for teaching or observation placements, Kaiser said.
"We have no reason to believe that SUNY Fredonia did not follow those protocols when placing Mr. Lewis," Kaiser told the Post-Standard.
In addition to observing at Fayetteville-Manlius, Lewis was a student teacher in 2012 at Dunkirk High School, Dunkirk and Silver Creek Elementary, according to his resume.
Lewis is currently being held in the Onondaga County Justice Center and will be sentenced by Onondaga County Judge Joseph Fahey on Aug. 4.