Robbery attempt in bizarre disguise nets four years — (The Windsor Star)

SSRI Ed note: Man on increasing doses of antidepressant puts on bizarre disguise, makes clumsy attempt to rob store, fights with clerk, flees. "Inexplicable".


Original article no longer available

The Windsor Star

Trevor Wilhelm, Windsor Star

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2008

A convicted robber and rapist who lost a violent struggle with a diminutive female clerk while trying to rob a convenience store – using a fake gun, wig, cowboy hat, heart-shaped shades and fake beard – has received a four-year prison sentence.

With two-for-one credit for pre-trial custody, Anthony Lewis, 53, a stay-at-home dad, will serve less than 21/2 years for attempted robbery with violence and using a disguise to commit an indictable offence.

Superior Court Justice John Brockenshire said the victim, a 34-year-old mother of two, left “lacerated and bloody,” thought she was going to be raped.

He added the fact the robbery was only attempted wasn’t because Lewis, who pistol-whipped the woman, “didn’t do his best” to make it work.

“If failed because the complainant got the better of this much larger, heavier, stronger man,” said Brockenshire.

Assistant Crown attorney Roger Dietrich wanted a five-year prison sentence. Defence lawyer Gary Mendler asked for three years.

Lewis walked into the now-closed Corner Store at 6915 Wyandotte St. E. in September 2005 and demanded the keys to the place from clerk Hong Nguyen, so that he could lock them both inside. In addition to his disguise and weapon, Dietrich said Lewis had a duffel bag filled with “coercion” tools, including duct tape, a knife and fake bomb.

Police reported after the incident that Nguyen struggled the fake gun away from Lewis and actually hit him with it.

Lewis fled the store after the fight, leaving his bag behind.

Police found Lewis’s DNA at the scene on some of his belongings. But Lewis, who denies his guilt, has claimed he was actually robbed, and his assailants stole the bag. Brockenshire said that story is a “fabrication.”

Dietrich said Nguyen “fought valiantly” against Lewis.

“There was a fairly major fight between these two,” said Dietrich. “She believed she was fighting for two things – her sexual integrity and her life.”

Referring to what Nguyen wrote in a victim impact statement, which wasn’t read in court, Brockenshire said she didn’t know if she’d be robbed or raped.

“Certainly some of the things that happened would be supportive of the letter,” he said before handing down the sentence.

Brockenshire said Lewis struck Nguyen and held her down. But she fought back, biting and scratching him, leaving “the telltale marks” that police saw when they arrested Lewis.

The judge said Nguyen turned over some money, but Lewis still wanted the store locked.

“Which was a very frightening thing,” said Brockenshire.

He said he can’t figure out what compelled Lewis to commit the crime.

“The bizarre conduct in the store until he finally fled made me wonder what was going on in the mind of Mr. Lewis to cause him to do such a thing,” said Brockenshire.

Lewis’s wife Pauline, who testified on her husband’s behalf, also had no explanation. She said the crime “totally shocked” her.

“I’ve been with him 16 years and I just can’t see him doing that,” she said.

She said her husband suffers from depression and had been on increasingly larger doses of anti-depressants before the crime.

The lawyer for Lewis, Mendler, said that except for the mental issues, the crime is “almost unexplainable.”

Before sentencing, Lewis didn’t express remorse for committing the crime, but said he felt for Nguyen and her husband.

“I feel remorse for what they’ve gone through,” he said.

Lewis also apologized for an outburst in court on a previous date, saying he was stressed out by jail and a food allergy.

Mendler, citing the “ridiculousness of the disguise,” said it wasn’t a sophisticated crime and suggested a lack of planning. Mendler also pointed out Lewis’s psychological problems.

Lewis had been a law-abiding citizen since his last conviction in 1982 and “is not the same man,” he added.

Dietrich said Lewis’s previous convictions involved violence, including a break and enter and theft in 1971, three break and enters in 1976, robbery and rape in 1979 and robbery with violence in 1982.

He added that Lewis still denies his guilt about the attempted robbery, has shown no remorse and that his most recent crime involved violence.

Nguyen needed staples to close a head wound and requires continuing physical therapy for other injuries.

But Nguyen’s mental scars, including agoraphobia, are much worse than her physical wounds, said Dietrich. She’s under psychological care.

Pauline Lewis said her husband came from a poor home filled with alcohol abuse and physical and sexual violence.

The couple met in Guelph in the early 1990s. They have a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son, who has a learning disability.

They moved to North Carolina in 1996. Pauline took a nursing job. Lewis became a house husband. He was also involved in the church and started a country music band, playing for free at nursing homes.

They moved to Windsor in 2002.