Former Pickerington High School Central football standout Roger Lewis Jr. agreed to a negotiated plea Tuesday morning, avoiding a retrial on a remaining charge of rape.
Provided he complies with the terms of probation, Lewis, 19, will not serve prison time as the result of being charged with two counts of felony rape by Pickerington police in January 2012.
On Tuesday, Sept. 5, Lewis pleaded guilty to falsification, a first-degree misdemeanor as part of an agreement worked out between Fairfield County Prosecutor Gregg Marx and Lewis' attorney, Neil Rosenberg.
All 180 days of prison sentenced by Fairfield County Common Pleas Judge Richard Berens will be suspended if Lewis satisfies the terms of his three-year probation, which include undergoing assessments to determine if he is a sexually-oriented offender or has problems with drugs or alcohol.
Originally, Lewis faced up to 22 years of prison after being charged with raping an 18-year-old classmate in December 2011 and January 2012.
However, a jury last February acquitted Lewis of one count of rape, and was deadlocked on the second charge.
According to Marx, a plea to the misdemeanor was agreed on after the alleged victim asked the case be resolved without being retried.
"It was the victim requesting we resolve this case short of a second trial," Marx said. "The (Pickerington) police department was OK with that.
"We would have preferred a conviction of rape," Marx said.
"However, the result of a second trial likely would have been another hung jury. I certainly didn't feel it was appropriate to put the victim through three trials."
Marx said he believed a conviction would have been difficult because of a recorded telephone conversation in which the alleged victim expressed affection for Lewis.
"They did have the victim taped on the a phone recording saying she liked (Lewis)," Marx said. "That's a problem for a rape trial."
After Tuesday's hearing, Rosenberg said Lewis maintains the sex with the alleged victim was consensual, and Lewis agreed to the plea so the second rape charge would be dismissed and he could put the matter behind him.
Rosenberg said Lewis has enrolled in Jireh Prep, a post-high school college preparatory program, in Matthews, N.C., where he will play football this fall.
He said his client hopes to move on to play football in college.
"This kid is not going to be 18 or 19 forever," Rosenberg said. "He wants to move forward with his athletic career.
"He stated on record that he was accused of something he did not do."
Marx said the falsification charge Lewis pleaded guilty to resulted from information he provided to Pickerington police Jan. 6, 2012, after being stopped for speeding while driving the alleged victim's vehicle.
Police had alleged Lewis raped the woman in the back seat of her vehicle prior to the traffic stop.
"When the police came, (Lewis) said the two of them were not doing anything," Marx said. "Later, he told the police they had consensual intercourse."
Prior to his arrest, Lewis verbally committed to play football at Ohio State University, but reports began to surface in late January 2012 that he didn't have the requisite pre-enrollment test scores to qualify.
He then visited Ohio University and began considering Marshall and Bowling Green.
Lewis finished his senior season at Central with 22 catches for 450 yards and eight touchdowns, returned three kickoffs for scores and returned a punt for a touchdown. He made second-team all-OCC-Ohio Division and special-mention all-district in Division I.
Rosenberg said Lewis will comply with the sexual offender assessment, but "denies that there's a need for it."
He also declined to address the Pickerington Police Department's handling of the matter.
"I'm not going to comment on the investigation in this case, but while they may have had probable cause to charge Roger Lewis, in my opinion, their evidence blatantly lacked the ability to get a conviction," Rosenberg said.
"It's very damaging when that occurs," he said.