POLK COUNTY, FL – Florida Sheriff Grady Judd runs a tight ship, and he and his officers like their criminals where they belong, in prison. Not everyone agrees with Judd’s commitment to law and order, especially the state of New Jersey and Governor Phil Murphy.
Now, Judd is confounded and confused over Governor Murphy’s early prison release efforts that are setting rapists and murderers free before they serve their time.
James Lewis was sentenced to 30 years in prison but was set free 10 years ahead of schedule. He was released early due to Murphy’s COVID-19 early release program for incarcerated criminals. Upon his release, Lewis shot and killed a man who was helping a woman load groceries into her car. He then tied the woman up and stole her car, with her in it. Troy Traynham was a security guard
He eventually ended up in Polk County at the home of relatives in the area, according to Sheriff Judd.
“I’m mad at everyone who turns criminals out early. I’m over people who say we keep people housed too long,” Judd said. “If you don’t keep prolific criminals and murderers locked up, they’re going to go back in the neighborhood and murder and victimize innocent people whether it’s New Jersey, Florida or anywhere else.”
Judd had sharp words for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy whose program allowed for Lewis’ early release.
“How’s that working out for you…shame on you,” Judd said. “Why don’t you go talk to the victim’s family and see if they thought that was a good idea?”
“James Lewis. He’s got a title, do you know what that title is? Murderer,” Judd said. “This time, I hope you learn from your mistake last time and you lock him up and keep him locked up in a state prison in New Jersey for the rest of his life because if you don’t…let me give you a news flash. He’ll murder again. Shame on New Jersey for letting this murderer out.”
After spending thirty years in prison in New Jersey, James Lewis was set free by New Jersey under an early release program. Then, he killed another man after being freed in East Orange during a carjacking incident.
Lewis, now a two-time murderer fled and eluded police since September, but he didn’t do his research, landing himself in the jurisdiction of one of America’s toughest crime fighters, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
On Tuesday morning, October 19, 2021, deputies from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man on a New Jersey warrant for murder, kidnapping, carjacking, and weapons charges.
51-year old James Lewis was taken into custody at a residence at 220 Kinghill Court SE in Winter Haven.
According to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, Lewis fatally shot a man on September 18, 2021, in East Orange, New Jersey during a carjacking. He then zip-tied the victim’s girlfriend and stole the vehicle with her in it, before crashing a short time later.
James Lewis was previously convicted for homicide in a 1989 case in which he was also convicted for robbery and possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison but only served 30 years in combined jail and prison time.
“He spent only 30 years in prison when he was sentenced to 40 years in prison for homicide, robbery, and possession of a weapon. In less than two years of being released early, he murdered again. The reason we have prisons is to keep violent and repeat criminals away from victims and innocent people in the community,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Following Lewis’ arrest Tuesday, a search warrant was served at the residence where he was arrested, and evidence linked to the East Orange investigation was recovered.