Police: NYC couple forged two positive COVID-19 tests to avoid trial while vacationing through three states

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LONG ISLAND, NY – A Manhattan couple has been arrested for forging positive COVID-19 test results to delay the husband’s criminal trial for drug charges in Long Island.

With the trial paused, the couple went on vacation traveling through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland when they were supposedly quarantining.

Devon Lewis, 35, was one day away from closing arguments in his trial on drug charges when he notified the court on September 23 that his wife tested positive for the virus. Blair McDermott and Lewis presented the court with a photograph of a report showing positive test results, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

The trial was halted so that Lewis and McDermott could quarantine in accordance with CDC guidelines.

On October 14, Lewis’s attorney told the court the couple was still quarantining in their home and he submitted another photographed COVID-19 test showing a second positive test for McDermott taken on October 8.

Eventually, the couple presented a negative test for McDermott. The trial resumed November 12 and Lewis was convicted on 12 felony drug charges related to possession of heroin and cocaine.

Investigators from the District Attorney’s Office became suspicious of the documents submitted by Lewis and McDermott and began an investigation. Their investigation determined the couple had forged both documents, changing the negative results to positive results.

A search warrant was served on Lewis’ cell phone. Analysis of the phone revealed that the couple had not been quarantining in their home, but were instead visiting multiple hotels and casinos throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

The District Attorney’s Office also found that the couple intentionally changed the date on the September test to make it appear the test was taken earlier than it was.

The investigation also determined that a doctor’s note Lewis presented to the court before his trial claiming he suffered from asthma was also forged. Lewis had presented the note to the court claiming any jail sentence during the pandemic would be a risk to his safety.

District Attorney Timothy Sini commented:

“It is reprehensible that someone would claim to have this deadly virus, which has taken so much from so many people, to try to avoid the consequences of their own criminal actions. This was a completely selfish, senseless attempt to subvert our criminal justice system and delay the inevitable.”

Lewis and McDermott each face two counts of second-degree forgery, offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, and lesser associated charges. On Monday, Lewis was arraigned on the new charges and remanded without bail. McDermott was released and is scheduled to return to court on January 22.

On November 13, the day before the couple presented their second forged test result, the New York Court System revised trial court procedures for trial courts because of the pandemic. Beginning November 16, all new jury trials and grand juries across the state were suspended. Pending and in-progress trials would continue.

Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks issued a memo to judges and court staff advising of the change. The order came after Governor Andrew Cuomo limited gathering to slow rising transmission rates in the state.

Lucian Chalfen, court spokesman, released a statement:

“In light of advice from our epidemiologist and Governor Cuomo’s most recent directives concerning limiting congregation of groups of people in public and private locations, we have made a determination that starting next week, no new prospective trial jurors, both criminal and civil, will be summoned for jury service, for now.”

Shortly after the New York court delay, federal courts in New York City also announced that all trials would be suspended until mid-January.

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Despite issuing the memo, Judge Marks expressed concern over the suspension of jury trials:

“Is it fair for people to be languishing in pretrial detention and presumed innocent with no prospect of a trial in the future for them? A criminal justice system cannot be, in any sense of the word, fully functioning, if it is not conducting jury trials.”

In November alone, at least three dozen people who appeared in eight different criminal courthouses tested positive for the virus in the city, according to state court administrators.

More than 400 defendants have been waiting inside New York City jails for over two years for their cases to be resolved, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Mayor has been critical of suspending the courts since the first court shutdown in early summer. In July, he blamed a rise in gun violence on the suspension of trial courts and grand juries:

“It’s a pretty few places where we’re seeing the uptick, a relatively few people causing the violent crime. We’re going after them. We need them prosecuted again. That’s the big missing link here because we can’t get them off the street if there’s not prosecution and the court system functioning.”

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shae agreed with the Mayor, saying:

“We know we don’t necessarily need more gun arrests; we need the people that are caught to be prosecuted fully, and then we need the court systems open to get them off the street as quickly as possible.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has released nearly 800 parole violators and more than 2,200 felons convicted of nonviolent crimes from state prisons in an effort to decrease the spread of the COVID-19 virus through prison populations. 

These prisoner release efforts have been ineffective in slowing the spread. A report released on January 9 by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision stated that 3598 inmates and 3470 staff members had contracted the virus. Of those, 27 inmates and six staff members have died from COVID-19. 

 

 

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