Friday 8/18/00

Judge rebukes former BU professor

Smith says Lewis 'deserves public humiliation' for theft

Staff Writer

In a stinging rebuke Thursday, Broome County Court Judge Martin E. Smith told a former Binghamton University faculty member that he deserves public humiliation for stealing money from the Research Foundation of the State University of New York.

"You took a position of trust at Binghamton University and used it to your own advantage. It doesn't get much lower than that," Smith told Alfred Lewis, a former finance professor in the School of Management and former associate provost for budget and planning before sentencing him to a conditional discharge Thursday.

Under a plea agreement, the former Binghamton University faculty member avoided prison time in return for resigning his faculty position and tenure rights and paying back $31,088 he admitted stealing over a one-year period.

Lewis has paid restitution and signed his resignation letter Wednesday, said Katharine F. Ellis, director of media relations at the university. She released a statement saying he is no longer an employee at the university, and BU now considers the matter closed.

Before imposing the sentence of conditional discharge, Smith said he remains puzzled by the case. He told Lewis he cannot comprehend why a man of Lewis' stature and background, who was held in high respect by the university and community, "would stoop so low to steal."

Lewis pleaded guilty in June to third-degree grand larceny, a felony. According to court documents, Lewis submitted 12 vouchers that contained intentionally false information to the research foundation. The false information included double billing for travel expenses and billing for computer software and tapes that he either never received or returned unused, said Broome County District Attorney Gerald F. Mollen.

Before sentencing, Smith asked Lewis about a comment he made in his pre-sentencing report that the $31,088 was "his money anyway so what's the problem."

Smith called the statement even more disturbing than the actual theft because "it gave me the impression you felt you were entitled to it."

If that's an accurate impression, "you sir are indeed a shallow person," Smith told Lewis, adding he deserves all the humiliation he receives. "You have no integrity, and the case speaks to that," Smith said.

Lewis said nothing to the judge during his sentencing and had no comment as he left the courtroom.

Robert L. Pompi, a BU associate professor of physics, said the case gives him "a great sense of loss."

"It's tragic his career at Binghamton University that had so much promise worked out the way it did," said Pompi, who is also president of the BU chapter of United University Professions, the statewide union for faculty and professional staff.

Lewis came to Binghamton University in 1989 as an assistant professor. He is a past recipient of a State University of New York Chancellor's Award and University Award for Excellence in Teaching. He was a member of a Strategic Planning Council that developed a long-term plan for the university's future.

Before sentencing, Smith asked Lewis about a statement he made to the Press & Sun-Bulletin the day he pleaded guilty, calling the charge a vendetta. After a brief conversation with Lewis, his attorney, Richard E. Fahrenz, said this statement was reported out of context.

Smith then asked the former faculty member about the statement in the pre-sentencing report. "I'm wondering if I should take back the guilty plea and schedule a trial," he said.

Fahrenz said Lewis accepts the fact that his acts were imp

Brought to you by