With nearly a dozen supporters watching, a Vacaville pastor entered Solano County Superior Court for the first time on Tuesday to face a half-dozen charges related to allegations that he conspired to firebomb his ex-girlfriend's home and subsequently posted bail using fraudulent documentation.
Mark Lewis, 39, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, entered the Fairfield courtroom of Judge Peter B. Foor from a holding cell following his most recent arrest on Friday on allegations that he fraudulently used the church as collateral to post bail. Lewis was first arrested on Jan. 10, a day after police said that a Molotov cocktail was hurled through a window of his ex-girlfriend's home on Chateau Circle.
On Tuesday, Solano County prosecutors filed two criminal complaints against the troubled pastor, accusing him of: arson of an inhabited structure; stalking; possession or manufacture of a combustible or explosive material; making a false financial statement; perjury; and attempting to record a false or forged instrument.
Lewis, permitted to wear a suit jacket and tie instead of a jail issued jumpsuit, appeared alongside Fairfield criminal defense attorney Denis Honeychurch, who indicated that he had not been retained yet and asked to continue the arraignment. Lewis did not enter a plea to the charges and Foor ordered him back at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 4 to complete the arraignment.
Nearly a dozen church members attended Tuesday's hearing in support of Lewis.
Charles Young, 20, said he's attended the church for a dozen years and spoke out against the allegations against Lewis on Tuesday.
"I don't think there's any truth to any of it," Young said.
"There's so many allegations because none of it is sticking," he added.
Young said that Lewis has done a lot for his community. Lewis bought people clothes, food and gave them shelter. In return, Young said, people have said false things about him in an attempt to hurt him.
Young described it as a, "manhunt to get a man of God behind bars by any means."
Also at Tuesday's hearing was former church member Ron Baker, who drove the church bus for years, but left the church early last year when his brother was accused of stealing.
At first, Lewis' enthusiasm was what drew him to the church.
"I felt at home there," Baker said.
While he said his brother was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, Baker said that he wanted to see Lewis held accountable for his actions, just as he held his own church members accountable.
"There's no way that all of these allegations could be false. There's just no way," Baker said.
Vacaville police responded to Chateau Circle at around 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 9 for the report of a Molotov cocktail that had been thrown in to the home. No one was injured, but within minutes of the call, a Vacaville police officer made a traffic stop on a rental car headed toward the highway.
Inside the car, police contacted Kristen Broyles, 30, of Citrus Heights, and Sacramento residents Anthony Newbolt, 33, and Richerd Wright, 28. Police said that during the investigation, information and evidence was obtained implicating all three suspects in the alleged firebombing.
Broyles, Newbolt and Wright have all pleaded not guilty to felony charges of arson of an inhabited structure, possession of flammable or explosive material. They remain in Solano County Jail custody with bail set at $150,000, $155,000 and $290,000, respectively.
A probable cause hearing for the trio is set for 1:30 p.m. on March 3.
Last week, a judge granted a three year restraining order against Lewis. The restraining order was requested by Lewis' ex-girlfriend Sarah Nottingham, who was a victim of the alleged firebombing.
In Nottingham's request for the restraining order on Jan. 2, she indicated that she had tried to end her relationship with Lewis for weeks.
Nottingham wrote that on Dec. 21, Lewis told her, "If I won't be with him I've 'created a monster.'"
Lewis was re-arrested on Friday on suspicion of fraud in connection with his bail.
A press release from the Vacaville Police Department stated that investigators determined Lewis used the church property as collateral by fraudulently listing himself and his uncle, Danny Lewis, 60, as "Trustor" on the church's Deed of Trust. Police said the document was newly drafted following his arrest. (See bit.ly/1e3lxBb for The Reporter's coverage of the fraud allegations).
Lewis remained in Solano County Jail custody following Tuesday's arraignment with bail set at $575,000.
Authorities said the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is urged to call the Vacaville Police Department at 449-5200 or Investigator Vicki Rister with the Solano County DA's Office at 784-6800.