Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Chantia Lewis Case Moving Towards Trial

Probable cause found to continue with felony charges.

By - Oct 18th, 2021 09:23 am
Alderwoman Chantia Lewis preliminary hearing screenshot. Image from circuit court livestream.

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis preliminary hearing screenshot. Image from circuit court live stream.

The case against Alderwoman Chantia Lewis is poised to head to trial.

On Monday morning, Lewis made her second court appearance. A complaint filed by the District Attorney’s office in September charges Lewis with four felonies and says she defrauded the City of Milwaukee and campaign donors of $21,666.70.

In a brief preliminary hearing before court commissioner Barry Phillips, probable cause was found to proceed with trying the felony charges, but Lewis, through attorney Michael Chernin, maintained that she is not guilty.

She faces felony charges for misconduct in public office, theft, embezzlement and falsifying campaign finance reports, and one misdemeanor, theft by false representation. The largest charge carries a $25,000 fine and up to 10 years in jail.

In a statement issued by a prior legal team, Lewis described the issues as “accounting errors.”

A virtual scheduling conference was set for Nov. 24 at 8:30 a.m. in front of circuit court judge Milton Childs.

In addition to Chernin, Lewis is represented by attorney Michael Maistelman. Assistant district attorney Matthew Westphal appeared as the prosecutor for Milwaukee County.

Lewis is free on a $1,000 signature bond. A condition of the bond is a no-contact order with the individuals from whom she is accused of depositing campaign contributions directly into her personal account. They include Martha Love, a prominent local Democrat, and Inderjeet Dhillon, gas station owner.

Lewis, 41, was first elected to the Milwaukee Common Council in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. An Air Force veteran, Alverno College graduate and ordained minister, Lewis had branded the far northwest side 9th District she represents the “New Ninth” as she sought to reinvigorate the commercial area around the former Northridge Mall.

The investigation, according to the complaint, started with a May 2020 review of multiple council members’ travel expenses and campaign finance disclosures.

“A review of the documents for all of the alderpersons showed material inconsistencies in Lewis’s filings as well as in her reimbursement for city approved travel. In particular, they showed that Lewis had received reimbursement from the City of Milwaukee for travel, which travel she then paid for out of her campaign account, Chantia 4 Progress, keeping the reimbursement for herself,” says the complaint.

She also used her campaign funds, according to the complaint, to pay for family trips to Marietta, GA and Wisconsin Dells. While in the Dells she made three withdrawals from her campaign account at an ATM in an outlet mall. Lewis is married with three children.

The complaint also says Lewis improperly used campaign funds to cover costs of tuition at Agape Love Bible College, an automobile loan, a personal credit card bill, car repair and Las Vegas hotel expenses

Lewis filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and 2008. The alderwoman filed to run for U.S. Senate in July, the ninth candidate to formally enter the Democratic primary.

The alderwoman has been removed from all Common Council committee assignments by president Cavalier Johnson. But Lewis has continued to appear and vote at full council meetings as well as issuing press releases from her office.

Johnson, in September, said that she is innocent until proven guilty and it is important that she continues to represent the interests of her constituents.

A copy of the criminal complaint is available on Urban Milwaukee.

Categories: City Hall, Politics, Weekly

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us