Ravens' Lewis To Be Freed After Making Deal

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - NFL star Ray Lewis, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, pleaded guilty in Atlanta to a misdemeanor charge on Monday under an agreement with the court that drops murder charges against him. In exchange, Lewis will provide testimony on what he does know about the stabbing deaths of two men outside a Super Bowl party last January.

Lewis entered the plea before Judge Alice Bonner. The judge agreed to the deal decided upon Sunday by prosecutors and Lewis' lawyers.

Bonner sentenced Lewis to one year on probation for obstruction of justice under Georgia's first offender act. Lewis also must provide an unspecified number of hours of community service.

"It's a good day for Ray," defense attorney Don Samuel stated as he entered the courthouse.

Defense attorney Ed Garland said he and Lewis discussed the plea bargain agreement thoroughly and went over his testimony before going to court.

"He said a prayer with me about his duties and his responsibilities and what he was doing, and he was happy to go forward and let the truth, all of it, come out," Garland said.

Garland stated that Lewis' only crime was to tell his companions after the brawl that led to the deaths, "Keep your mouth shut," and giving an incomplete statement to police.

"He fully acknowledges his responsibility for those acts," Garland told Bonner after the plea was entered.

Lewis and two friends, Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley, were charged with murder, felony murder and aggravated assault in the stabbing deaths of Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker in the early-morning hours of January 31.

Samuel said Lewis will testify against his co-defendants as part of the deal that also calls for aggravated assault charges against the linebacker to be dropped.

But the lawyer said Lewis' testimony will not be "devastating" to Sweeting and Oakley. He said Lewis never saw a knife during the fight.

Lewis is expected to testify on Tuesday. Bonner sent the jurors home Monday morning, but defense attorneys asked her not to tell them about the plea.

Steven Sadow, who represents Sweeting, said he remains confident despite the deal with Lewis.

"No matter what Ray Lewis says, the jury will not find Joseph guilty," Sadow said. "It may have an effect on our overall strategy, but then again we have to hear what Ray says."

Oakley's lawyer, Bruce Harvey, said, "The state just finished proving with several detectives that he (Lewis) is a liar. He was a liar when he was a defendant. I guess now he's the state's liar."

Thomasaina Threatt, an aunt of Lollar, was among relatives of the victims who gathered outside the courtroom, many of them in tears.

"You let a guilty man go free. Where's the justice in that?" she said.

Prosecutors have presented little proof that Lewis assaulted anyone during the street fight outside an Atlanta nightclub.
The prosecution's witnesses have flip-flopped, changing the stories that they gave investigators just after the killings.