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Official upset that sex offender was free

A registered sex offender who police say took a 12-year-old girl to Georgia before being arrested Wednesday should have been in prison, said state Corrections Secretary James Crosby.

Crosby said probation officers recommended prison for Raymond Lewis, 31, in 2001 and 2002 but both times he was released on probation after spending time in the county jail.

"The judge didn't follow our recommendations," Crosby said.

Crosby recently ordered probation officials who work for him to jail accused probation violators immediately instead of allowing them to remain free while waiting to see a judge. His decision has overcrowded some jails and brought criticism from some judges and prosecutors.

In August, Crosby fired four probation officers in Deltona because they failed to get a violent offender off the street. The man is now accused of killing six people.

Police say it appears the 12-year-old, of Crawfordville, left willingly with Lewis, who had been doing some work at her parents' house. The two were seen on a videotape as they boarded a bus in Tallahassee Sunday night.

FBI agents from Miami found them at a hotel near Atlanta on Wednesday. Lewis faces charges of taking a minor across state lines and flight to avoid prosecution.

Lewis was placed on house arrest in August 2001 after he pleaded no contest to lewd and lascivious battery on a minor. He was ordered not to use alcohol and to stay at home except when working and serve four years of sex offender probation.

Probation officers repeatedly found him absent from home, and he was arrested with an open container of alcohol in a public park. He was charged with violating probation and sent to jail for 120 days with credit for 108 days already served before being allowed to remain free on probation again, court records show.

In November 2001, less than a month after being released from jail, Lewis was arrested for violating probation, given credit for 32 days in jail and again released on probation, records show.

"I think it is our role to immediately call it to the attention of the court when people aren't performing on probation, then it's up to the courts to deal with it," Crosby said. "In this case, the judges didn't follow our recommendations."