Opening up a new avenue of investigation, authorities have found something even more disturbing in the home of a Santa Clara elementary school principal than methamphetamine and a date-rape drug -- 10 hidden cameras, including one tucked inside a Teddy bear.
A multiagency task force discovered the hidden cameras during a search of Montague Elementary Principal Eric Dean Lewis' San Francisco apartment, according to a police report obtained by this newspaper. The search was conducted late last week by task force agents during the course of an undercover investigation into a tip that Lewis was selling drugs.
The odd cache was stuffed in a hallway closet and included cameras hidden in a cigarette lighter and a coat hanger. Another miniature camera was found inside a watch on a shelf in Lewis' bedroom.
The discovery clearly alarmed agents with the Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team, who also seized the drugs, three computers and "numerous" hard drives from Lewis' apartment. They also confiscated the computer from his school office.
The combination of covert surveillance cameras, computers and controlled substances -- including the date-rape drug GHB -- could mean that videos were being made without the participants' knowledge.
"Based on the fact that Eric Lewis was a schoolteacher and the fact that there was no apparent reason to have so many hidden cameras, especially the Teddy-bear hidden camera, I took control of the cameras as possible evidence to crimes we may find on his computer, i.e. videos," Mountain View police Officer Wahed Magee wrote in the report.
Lewis was arrested Thursday at a Caltrain station in San Francisco, where he had arranged to pick up an undercover agent he "met" through a gay dating website. He was charged Monday with five drug-related felonies and one misdemeanor and did not enter a plea. He is being held in jail in lieu of $25,000 bail.
Currently, there is no evidence that Lewis was selling or using drugs with children, prosecutor Daniel Rothbach said. But he said the investigation by the Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team is continuing.
Lewis has been placed on unpaid administrative leave. His arrest shocked and dismayed parents at Montague Elementary and officials with the Santa Clara Unified School District.
"This is so difficult to comprehend, because he was such a good principal," said Esperanza Lopez, mother of a first-grader and also a high schooler who attended Montague. She and other parents said that Lewis worked to get extra help for struggling students, organized English and other classes for parents, and he also tried to learn Spanish to better communicate.
Prosecutor Rothbach said Lewis will not be released until investigators determine that any money used to post bail was not derived from the sale of drugs. The next court hearing was set for Friday at 2 p.m.
Lewis was known for reaching out to parents and encouraging them to participate at school, said Santa Clara Unified Superintendent Bobbie Plough. The school has no PTA or other parent organization. Lewis helped get groceries for families in need and worked with a local Rotary Club to provide shoes for students.
"People viewed him as a caring person," Plough said.
Lewis was beginning his seventh year as principal at Montague. Before that he was an assistant principal at five schools in Milpitas Unified, where he began as a teacher at Zanker Elementary in 1999. Previously, public records show, he lived in West Palm Beach, Fla., and in New York state.
On Monday, Montague teachers told students that Lewis would not be at school and that he was in jail.
"It made me feel sad," said Roger Jimenez, a third-grader. "He was a good person."
But last Tuesday, Lewis was texting from the school to the undercover agent he knew only as "Anthony," suggesting they get together and "blow some clouds," slang for smoking methamphetamine, according to the police report. He also agreed to bring the agent "bomb," another slang word for meth, according to the report. Lewis' cell phone also contained other text messages relating to the sale of meth, the report said.
Two days later, on Thursday, the team arrested him. In addition to the cameras and computer agents found, a police dog named Zeus helped locate about a quarter-ounce of methamphetamine, seven Ecstasy pills, several vials of the date-rape drug, 50 plastic baggies, a scale with traces of meth on it, and a syringe without a needle that could be used to dole out precise amounts of the liquid date-rape drug.
Follow Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.