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Santa Clara Principal Appears In Court Following Drug Arrest

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) - A Santa Clara elementary school principal who was arrested on drug charges last week was arraigned Monday afternoon.

Eric Dean Lewis, 42, principal of Montague Elementary School, was arrested around 4 p.m. Thursday at the San Francisco Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets after he allegedly offered to provide drugs to an undercover officer who had contacted him through Adam-4-Adam, an online dating site for gay men, Deputy District Attorney Daniel Rothbach said Monday.

In Santa Clara County Superior Court Monday afternoon, Lewis stood with his head hung facing away from the courtroom cameras, and asked Judge Jerome Nadler to be referred to the public defender's office.

He has been charged with five felonies for drug sales and possession, plus a misdemeanor charge of possessing drug paraphernalia.

The arrest has stunned students, parents and colleagues of Lewis.

"He was well regarded in his community, he's done a good job at his school and this is a complete shock to us," said Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley, spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Unified School District.

Following his arrest, Lewis was immediately placed on unpaid administrative leave, she said.

The sting that led to Lewis' arrest was set up after members of the interagency Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team received a tip that Lewis was involved in drugs and frequented the dating site, Gregory said.

The team involves San Jose police and other local authorities, plus the State Department of Justice.

Lewis was not found to be in possession of drugs at the time of his arrest, but a search of his San Francisco home uncovered around a quarter-ounce of methamphetamine, seven ecstasy pills, and several vials of GHB and scales, Gregory said. The discovery led investigators to conclude that he was dealing, not just using, according to Gregory and Rothbach.

Rothbach said law enforcement officials have also seized several computers as part of the investigation, including at least one from the Montague Elementary School campus.

Gregory said it does not appear that Lewis was engaged in any drug activity related to the school, although the investigation is still ongoing.

By Monday morning, a new interim principal had been appointed at Montague Elementary School—veteran elementary school teacher and curriculum developer Barbara Friedenbach, who has been with the district for more than 15 years, Kappeler-Hurley said.

She said Superintendent Bobbie Plough and school district staff were on site at Montague Elementary on Monday to answer parents' questions.

Kappeler-Hurley also said the school is sending a letter home with students Monday to notify parents about Lewis' arrest and introduce them to the interim principal.

Lewis is being held in Santa Clara County Jail on $25,000 bail. He will return to court on Sept. 28.

Editor's note: A state Department of Justice spokeswoman initially said Lewis was arrested Friday in Santa Clara. She clarified Monday that the arrest actually happened on Thursday in San Francisco.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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