CLEVELAND –For the first time since May 2005 when eight children and one adult died in a fire at 1220 East 87th St., the man accused and convicted of the crime took the witness stand.
Antun Lewis, convicted in February of intentionally setting the blaze, and awarded a new trial in April, told the jury how emotional he got when he heard of the tragedy.
“When I found out about the fire, I didn’t know what to make of it. I was crying and got emotional. I didn’t want to understand.”
Lewis, who testified that he was on drugs at the time, said he learned about the fire through phone call from neighbors and friends.
Defense attorney Angelo Lonardo spent the first part of the morning reviewing Lewis’ cell phone records.
Just hours after the fire at 6:51 a.m., Lewis arrived at his mother’s house to inform them what he knew.
“I was crying and a mess and I knew I was going to be around my family. They held me to try to keep me together.”
The highlight of the morning session was a audio recording that was played to the jury from the fall of 2007. In it, Lewis’ friend and alleged crime partner Marion Jackson, who was a government informant, visited Lewis at the Cuyahoga County Jail, housed on an assault charge.
Jackson opened the meeting up by letting him know that the police were asking him questions about his involvement in the fire.
Lewis told Jackson, “My little 12-year-old sister was in that home. Everyone knows I didn’t do anything. It’s not in my heart to do something like that,” Lewis explained. “I’ll take it to my grave, and put it in God’s hands.”
The government will cross examine Lewis after the lunch break.
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