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Terrence Lewis, the wheelman in a deadly 2015 drive-by shooting, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 22 years to life in prison.

A New York judge set him free this week on a technicality, finding that authorities failed to follow a federal law from 1970 on interstate custody rules and wrongly placed him in a Pennsylvania prison, where he was serving an unrelated sentence, while awaiting trial for the murder of Johnny Washington, 29.

Washington died in Rochester, New York, on May 26, 2015. Lewis, 31, was convicted of second-degree murder on Oct. 11, 2018, and sentenced the following December, according to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.

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Under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Law, if a convicted prisoner in one state is charged in another, he must be held in the new jurisdiction while awaiting trial – otherwise the case has to be dismissed.

Lewis was serving a federal sentence in Pennsylvania when New York authorities charged him with Washington’s murder. Because authorities returned him to Pennsylvania instead of holding him in New York, the case should be dismissed, a Monroe County judge ruled before freeing him this month, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

He completed his federal sentence on Aug. 14, 2020, federal prison records show.

Rochester, New York, police car

Kyle Steinebach, a former Monroe County prosecutor who helped get Lewis convicted, told the New York Post that the killer’s release puts the star witness’s life in danger.

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“Now, that person’s life is in jeopardy, in my opinion,” he told the paper.

He argued that Lewis should be re-tried and not set free. However, the judge dismissed the case “with prejudice,” meaning he can’t be tried again.

“The harsh reality is that despite a jury of 12 members of our community determining, after hearing all of the evidence set before them, that defendant is guilty of the murder of Johnny C. Washington, this administrative jail decision made based on jail population and timing, not the law, unequivocally entitles defendant to dismissal of the murder in the second degree indictment with prejudice under the exacting requirements of the anti-shuttling provisions of the IAD,” Judge Stephen Miller wrote in a Feb. 5 decision.

Lewis was the man driving the car during the drive-by shooting that killed Washington at the intersection of Sixth and Bay Streets in Rochester, according to prosecutors.

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“In May 2015, Terrence Lewis made the senseless, yet deliberate decision to take part in the murder of Johnny Washington,” Steinebach said in a statement after sentencing. “Thanks to the excellent investigation by the Rochester Police Department, Terrence Lewis may spend the rest of his life behind bars, away from this community. We hope this sentence will bring a sense of justice and closure to Johnny Washington’s suffering family.”

This week, Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter issued a new statement apologizing to that family.

“There are no words to take away the pain you are justly feeling that undoubtedly comes with the lack of fairness being served based on this decision, which violates the principles of justice,” he said. “I extend my sincere apology.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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