POWHATAN – A local priest who faced a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated for the second time in under 10 years pled no contest last week and was sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Father Walter G. Lewis, 64, of Powhatan, who is the priest at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, appeared in Powhatan County General District Court on Friday, Sept. 29, before Chief Judge Mayo K. Gravatt.
The judge sentenced Lewis to 12 months in jail but suspended 11 months and 20 days, according to court documents. Ten days is the mandatory minimum sentence required. Gravatt gave Lewis until Friday, Oct. 13, to make necessary arrangements before he has to begin serving his sentence.
Lewis’ sentencing included having his license revoked for three years. However, he will be allowed to submit paperwork to the judge for review to have a restricted license so he can still perform his duties as a priest. The judge said will have to use a vehicle interlock ignition system for 12 months.
Lewis also has to pay a $500 fine and attend the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP).
About 20 people came to the courthouse to show their support for Lewis on Sept. 29.
Edward S. Whitlock III, Lewis’ attorney, said the priest “has been taking these proceedings very seriously. He has addressed the concerns. The judge has made a ruling and Father Lewis accepts those rulings.”
Whitlock noted that Lewis will be able to do his job but he will be under “pretty strict restrictions” for when he can drive when that is approved by the judge.
“The judge made the restrictions flexible enough so he could accomplish his job. He has to prove he is on the way to business that is appropriate business,” the lawyer said.
Rob Cerullo, deputy commonwealth’s attorney, said he thought the proceedings went fine and noted that Lewis “took responsibilities for his actions and was contrite. I hope it won’t happen again.”
The charge against Lewis stems from a traffic stop made at 10:23 p.m. on June 6 by a Powhatan County deputy. The deputy stopped Lewis on Judes Ferry Road near Flint Hill Road after his vehicle “crossed the center line and went into head-on traffic.”
The deputy offered a preliminary breath test (PBT) and Lewis’s breath alcohol results were .11, which is above the legal limit of .08, according to court documents. Lewis was then brought to the sheriff’s office where he took another breath alcohol test and blew a .10.
According to one of the documents, Lewis was previously arrested on Nov. 30, 2011, and charged with driving under the influence. According to court records, he was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months with all of it suspended. He also had a restricted driver’s license for a year and had to pay a $250 fine.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.