As police investigated the stabbing deaths of two men and tried to account for bullet holes in a limousine that carried Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis, a judge ordered yesterday that the linebacker be held without bail for at least three weeks in the slayings.
Lewis had been in Atlanta since Wednesday for what was supposed to have been Super Bowl-sized revelry through the week and then a personal send-off Monday to Honolulu for his third straight Pro Bowl.
Instead, he stood silently before Judge Elaine L. Carlisle in Atlanta Municipal Court yesterday morning wearing a red prison uniform, his hands cuffed and resting in front of him, two murder charges hanging over his head.
Police, meanwhile, stashed the limousine driver in an unnamed hotel, providing him protective custody until they can get him on a flight to Baltimore. He apparently told investigators that Lewis was not responsible for the stabbings and provided information on two other suspects who were in the limousine when the men were stabbed.
Lewis, 24, the defensive soul of the Ravens for the past four years and one of the team's brightest hopes for the future, was arrested Monday night. He had been at the Cobalt Lounge, a club in the bustling Buckhead district, for a Super Bowl party that stretched into the early hours of Monday morning after Sunday's game.
He apparently left the club and the $100-a-head party about 3: 15 a.m. About an hour later, Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, were stabbed repeatedly about 200 yards from the front door. One man died at the scene, the other at a hospital.
In the courtroom yesterday, the judge ruled that there was probable cause to keep Lewis jailed at least until a preliminary hearing can be held Feb. 24. Outside the courtroom, his attorney, Max Richardson Jr., proclaimed Lewis innocent, though apparently acknowledging that his client was at the scene of the killings.
"I think it's a situation where he was in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Richardson of Decatur, an Atlanta suburb. "From the information I've gathered from law enforcement officers, they know Ray Lewis didn't kill these unfortunate victims."
Richardson said Lewis was arrested because police were unable to locate the two other suspects.
The driver's account
Tony Toskov, the owner of All Stretched Out Limousine Service in Baltimore, said one of his drivers picked up Lewis at his Owings Mills home, then gathered a few others. They drove to Charlotte, N.C., stayed overnight, and took a couple of more friends with them to Atlanta, Toskov said.
He said the driver, Duanne Fassett, fled the Cobalt in the limousine after a group Lewis was with got into an altercation outside the bar with another group. Someone from the other group began firing at the limousine, Toskov said, hitting a tire and leaving five holes in the car.
"There was the stabbing and then the shots rang out," Toskov said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said a police officer confirmed that one of the tires had been shot.
"He took off because they were shooting at him," Toskov said. "He didn't care who was in the car or who wasn't inside."
Toskov said he had regained the limousine, which Lewis was still renting for $125 an hour, and was driving it back to Baltimore last night.
Toskov said the driver saw the person who did the stabbing but does not know his name. He said that person was with Lewis' group but was not among those picked up in Baltimore or Charlotte.
Family and lawyers gathered yesterday at the Atlanta City Detention Center west of downtown, where Lewis is being held. Visitors included his grandmother, fiance, uncle and his lawyers.
Tatyana McCall, 23, of Miami and the mother of two of Lewis' children, flew to Atlanta on Thursday but did not attend the Super Bowl party.
"He just wants to say he's innocent and that he wants us to have faith in him," she told The Sun after visiting with Lewis. "He could not have committed such a heinous crime."
David Modell, the Ravens president, said the ordeal has not been easy for anybody and that decisions on the future of the team's All-Pro linebacker will wait.
"We need to let due process take its course and plan accordingly," he said. "I don't have a crystal ball. This is like a roller coaster, and we've got to ride with it."
The Ravens issued a statement yesterday saying that it was too early to draw conclusions based on the charges.
"We have not had the opportunity to speak to Ray Lewis about this matter, and we can only hope that the charges against Ray are false. We recognize that this is a very difficult situation, and we are concerned for everyone involved.
"We respect the investigative and judicial processes that are taking place. We are monitoring all of this as best as we can. This is a very serious matter to the Baltimore Ravens. Two young men died in Atlanta, and we offer our sympathies to their families and friends."
Other legal troubles