Derrick Lewis spent three days last week in an expensive Baltimore hotel room paid for by the Wall Street Journal for security reasons, Lewis and a spokesman for the newspaper confirmed yesterday.
Lewis told the Journal he had been threatened last week and feared retaliation once the paper published its story March 20 that reported that Lewis said former Boston Celtics and Dunbar High standout Reggie Lewis had used cocaine.
Derrick Lewis, no relation to Reggie Lewis or the Derrick Lewis who played at the University of Maryland, entered the hotel the evening of Sunday, March 19.
A day after the Journal article appeared, the Boston Globe quoted Derrick Lewis as saying that Reggie Lewis and the late Maryland star Len Bias had used cocaine together. Last Wednesday, Derrick Lewis denied the accounts and said his statements were exaggerated and taken out of context.
Reggie Lewis was captain of the Celtics when he collapsed and died of a heart ailment while shooting baskets in July 1993.
"I told them if they ran the story, it would put my life in jeopardy," said Derrick Lewis, who played with Reggie Lewis at Dunbar and Northeastern University. "I told them there was no way they were going to leave me out there."
Lewis, who said he never reported threats to the police, said he was accompanied most of the time at the hotel by a friend he called Kevin. Lewis said he also invited several friends to the hotel last Tuesday night before checking out and returning to his East Baltimore home.
Lewis, who works part time for a painting and cleaning company, stayed on the gold card Club Level, which features special amenities such as a hospitality suite with free breakfasts and evening cocktails. The room costs nearly $200 a night.
Roger May, a spokesman for the Journal, said the paper agreed to pay for the room, and for Lewis to be driven from the interview in Washington to Baltimore. He said there also was a modest baby-sitting expense for his son.
"He expressed concern, and we felt a responsibility to provide him with three nights," said May, who called it an isolated incident and declined to release the amount of the charges. "This is not a standard practice of this paper, but the security of Mr. Lewis was in question. There was no payment for a news story, and there was a stipulation that we were only going to pay for the room charges and reasonable food expenses."
In the hotel room last Tuesday, Lewis said: "I know this looks bad. People are going to say I sold Reggie out, staying in a nice hotel room. But that's not the case. Hey, I've stayed in hotel rooms all over the country, and in Europe, from Finland to Germany. This was no big deal.
"They picked the hotel, I just wanted a place to stay. Any place in Baltimore. If I was going to sell Reggie out, it wouldn't be over some hotel room. My motive was safety."
He reinforced that view yesterday.
"I'm to the point now I just want to get this over and get on with my life," said Lewis.