Ending Jury Trial, Pastor/Arsonist Defendant Takes Plea Bargain
The trial was not going well; it looked like Mark Lewis was going to be facing a very serious stretch in state prison for stalking his girlfriend and being responsible for firebombing her house. But in the middle of his jury trial, he blinked and finally took the plea deal offered by the judge.
The surprising turn of events came as former Fellowship Baptist church Pastor Lewis entered a no contest plea. The arson charge included enhancements for use of an accelerant and Lewis’s admission of previous convictions.
Rather than being sent home by retired Judge, Solano County Superior Court Judge Dwight C. Ely, jurors had expected to return to his courtroom to hear a second day of testimony. One of Lewis’ former church members was to take the witness stand and explain how he was recruited by Lewis to hurl a late night Molotov cocktail into the window of the ex-girlfriend’s Chateau Circle home where six people, including three children, were staying. No one was hurt in the attack and a small fire did only minor damage before being extinguished.
Prosecutors on Thursday said they were not in support of the plea bargain arrangement, whereby Lewis now will receive a sentence determined by the judge. Lewis had previously been offered a deal in exchange for a 10 year prison sentence, yet rejected it in favor of going before a jury. If convicted by a jury, Lewis could have faced a potential maximum sentence of 14 years.
According to testimony during a probable cause hearing last summer, Sarah Nottingham, Lewis’s former girlfriend and firebomb target, decided to end her relationship with the battling pastor because she said she thought he was engaged in criminal activity. When she met him at the church to end the relationship, he told her, “You’ve created a monster.”
Lewis is scheduled to return to court on February 18 to face sentencing.