Felony charges against a Hemet man accused of trying to abduct three girls in separate roadside encounters were dismissed Friday at the request of prosecutors.
“New evidence came about, and we took a fresh look at the case,” Riverside County District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall said regarding Kareem Amil Lewis. “After doing so, we did not believe we could prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury.”
Lewis’ trial was slated to get under way today. Instead, Deputy District Attorney Ed Jensen asked Superior Court Judge Michael Rushton to dismiss all nine felony counts against the defendant, citing lack of evidence.
The judge agreed, lifting the 34-year-old’s $1 million bail and ordering him released from sheriff’s custody.
Lewis was charged in February with three counts each of attempted kidnapping, annoying a minor and communicating with a child with the intent to commit a felony.
During a preliminary hearing in May, one of the alleged victims testified that she encountered Lewis while walking home on Feb. 13, saying that he drove past her multiple times before finally pulling to the curb and calling out to her.
She said he asked her whether she needed a ride, but she kept walking, fearing the 6-foot-3, 240-pound man might attempt to physically assault her.
Another girl alleged that Lewis approached her in a red vehicle and yelled out, “Hey, cutie, you need a ride?” The middle school student alleged that he followed her for a while, prompting her to run home.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed by sheriff’s Detective Cassandre Pemberton, a 15-year-old girl on her way home from school on Feb. 14 said a big man in a red Ford Mustang accosted her, “opened the passenger door from inside and asked (her) if she needed a ride.”
The teenager fled and told her family what happened.
The following day, the girl’s 21-year-old sister was returning from the grocery store with her child when she spotted a similar vehicle circling the neighborhood, “passing her multiple times by making U-turns,” Pemberton wrote.
The driver stopped and asked her if she wanted a lift, at which point the woman noted the license plate, ignoring the inquiry. She gave the information to sheriff’s deputies, who traced the plate back to Lewis’ girlfriend’s residence in Hemet.
The alleged victims identified Lewis based on a photographic lineup, according to investigators.
He was sought for a month before he was found in San Bernardino, living across the street from an elementary school. The defendant initially denied speaking to the girls, but later said he might have contacted them in the interest of selling Valentine’s Day gift baskets, according to the prosecution.