Assistant state attorney's cases under review after "crack hoe" Facebook post

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Assistant State Attorney Kenneth Lewis spoke at a news conference Thursday after controversial comments he wrote on his personal Facebook page.

Lewis is one of State Attorney Jeff Ashton's top prosecutors, but he's facing backlash over a controversial post that read, "Happy mothers day (sic) to all the crack hoes out there.  It's never too late to tie your tubes, clean up your life and make (a) difference to someone out there that deserves a better mother."

Speaking on Thursday, Lewis offered apologies for posting the comment on Facebook.

"I used a poor choice of word in using the term 'crack hoe' instead of 'drug addict,'" Lewis said. "To those I unintentionally offended, I offer you my deepest apologies. I regret it was misinterpreted by some."

He went on to slam media on its coverage of the post, as well as coverage involving drug addiction, particularly crack cocaine.

"I believe if the media truly cared about the people they accuse me of offending that they would do stories about people on crack," said Lewis.

He also said, “I use hyperbole, sensationalism to get reaction from people to start discussing.”

Ashton on Thursday reiterated his disapproval for the Facebook post, but he made it clear there will be no disciplinary action against Lewis.

"I am not going to punish someone for what is clearly political speech," Ashton said.

He also said the media’s criticism was fair.

WFTV’s legal analyst Bill Scheaffer said since the comments weren’t made on a case Lewis was working on and were made in his private time, the only punishment he would receive would be from Ashton.

Channel 9 asked Ashton why his office doesn't have a social media policy, and whether the controversy will change that.

"We don't have an ethics policy that controls private speech. We do not. Mr. Lewis can say whatever he wants in private," Ashton said.

Channel 9 did some digging and found even more questionable posts on Lewis' Facebook page, including one about a 19-year-old home invasion suspect.

Lewis's Response: “Well, I believe in the law that the legislature passes, and the law says there's justifiable use of deadly force if a felony is committed in any dwelling house. The fear of that should act as a deterrent for any human being to violate the sanctity of another man's home, and one should pay the ultimate penalty for that act.”

In the post, Lewis said the man should've been shot in the head and executed on the spot.

Another post urged followers to change their profile picture to one of embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in support of Sterling's right to free speech.

Lewis's Response: “What I meant by that is that I think it's horrible that people can be without due process in any regard.”

In another post, Lewis said that Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor hit the “affirmative action lottery” when she should have been working in fast-food.

When Channel 9 asked him about that post, he said it was a joke but also said he doesn't believe the constitution should treat anyone differently.

Lewis said he doesn’t find his posts embarrassing, but Ashton thought otherwise.

“Yes it is. I don’t want my office wrapped up in complex social issues for which there are no clear solutions. As you can see, I was sitting here somewhat uncomfortable,” Ashton said.

Protestors gathered outside the State Attorney’s Office hours before the scheduled news conference.

"If he wants freedom of speech, go in private practice," Lawanna Gelzer of National Action Network said of Lewis. "Not with my tax dollars. That's unacceptable."

"It's not just a blemish on the attorney, it's a blemish on the office," said Beverlye Neal of the National Congress of Black Women.

Ashton called the crack hoes post offensive and dehumanizing, but that criticism didn't go far enough for those protesting on Thursday.

"I'm not satisfied and the reason being is because the statements that were made are reflective of his office and the principles that they stand upon," said Neal.

Lewis’ supervisor is now going through and examining his files to make sure his personal opinions did not affect his cases.

Ashton said he wants to do that so he can assure the public there’s nothing in Lewis’ work life that has been affected by his personal views.

Lews's comments likely won't be reported to the Florida Bar Association.