Ald. Chantia Lewis Pleads Guilty, Removed From Office
Alderwoman faces August sentencing hearing following felony plea.
The New Ninth needs a new alderwoman.
Alderwoman Chantia Lewis was removed from office Monday after accepting two felony charges for misconduct in public office and unlawfully using campaign funds. She pleaded guilty to the charge of misconduct in public office and no contest to the campaign funds charge, the latter plea designed to avoid potential civil lawsuits.
She now faces an Aug. 25 sentencing hearing. The Milwaukee County District Attorney is recommending full restitution, a year in the House of Correction and three years of probation. Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Milton Childs will ultimately decide whether to impose the maximum penalties of 3.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each felony.
The felony conviction, under Wisconsin State Law, immediately results in Lewis’ removal from office.
She was once seen as a potential rising-star Democratic politician. Lewis filed to run for U.S. Senate in July 2021, the ninth candidate to formally enter the Democratic primary.
Lewis was charged in September 2021 with four felonies and one misdemeanor related to her use of campaign funds for personal expenses, submitting false reimbursement requests to the city, failing to report contributions and seeking to circumvent maximum contribution limits. The plea agreement includes dropping two felony charges (embezzlement, filing false campaign reports) and the misdemeanor charge (theft by fraud of less than $2,500).
She appeared virtually Monday morning with the permission of the court. She exhibited COVID-19 symptoms over the weekend, said her attorney Michael Chernin. She appeared to have nasal congestion when appearing virtually. Chernin appeared in person
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. She filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and 2008.
Her first time submitting falsified travel reimbursement forms to the city occurred in November 2016, the same year she was elected. She used campaign funds to pay for a trip, then requested reimbursement from the city and deposited the money into her personal bank account.
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.
After the hearing, Chernin discussed the case with the media, but declined to discuss his client’s strategy for the sentencing hearing. Westphal declined to speak to reporters.
A special election will be called to fill her seat. Based on filing deadlines, it will occur after the upcoming November election.
A copy of the criminal complaint is available on Urban Milwaukee.
The plea agreement required Lewis to affirm multiple statements to Childs, which included whether she was satisfied with her legal representation. She sighed, then said yes. Chernin, after the hearing, said that was a result of Lewis hoping to keep her council seat and be charged only with several misdemeanors.
Lewis was an active participant in the July 12 Common Council meeting. Following the initial charges, the alderwoman was removed from all Common Council committee assignments by then-council president Cavalier Johnson. New council president Jose G. Perez has maintained Lewis’ committee restriction, but Lewis has regularly participated in full council meetings and other district events.
“I believe in accountability for people who violate the law, and today’s guilty plea by Alderwoman Chantia Lewis is an important step forward in holding her accountable for her financial misdeeds,” said Johnson in a statement issued at approximately 11:30 a.m. “City officials hold a public trust, and every one of us has an obligation to the people of Milwaukee to operate with the highest level of integrity. I expect that of every member of my administration and of all my colleagues in elective office.”
- City Hall: Chantia Lewis Ordered To Pay More Than $27,000 - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 7th, 2022
- Former Alderwoman Chantia Lewis Booked Into House of Correction - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 30th, 2022
- Chantia Lewis Sentenced To 30 Days In Custody, 3 Years Probation - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 25th, 2022
- City Hall: Ald. Chantia Lewis Pleads Guilty, Removed From Office - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 18th, 2022
- City Hall: Embezzlement, Misconduct Trial Scheduled For Chantia Lewis - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 3rd, 2022
- City Hall: Trial of Ald. Chantia Lewis Inches Forward - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 21st, 2022
- City Hall: Chantia Lewis Case Moving Towards Trial - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 18th, 2021
- Chantia Lewis Goes To Court - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 29th, 2021
- City Hall: Ald. Chantia Lewis Charged With Defrauding City, Campaign of $21,000 - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 7th, 2021
Read more about Chantia Lewis charges here