The Atlanta lawyer representing Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis made an unannounced visit to Baltimore yesterday and inspected the stretch limousine that carried Lewis to a Super Bowl party and then away from the scene of a stabbing that left two men dead.
After examining the 40-foot vehicle, the lawyer, Edward T. M. Garland, said he found evidence in the black limo but declined to describe it, and he again proclaimed his client's innocence.
"He is 100 percent, absolutely innocent," Garland said in an impromptu news conference last night.
Garland also said that he questioned several unidentified people in Maryland yesterday, but has not spoken with a key witness in the case, Lewis' limo driver, Duane Fassett of Severn.
Fassett has told Atlanta authorities that he saw Lewis throw a punch at one of the victims. Thus far, Lewis remains the only person charged in the killings, but there are signs that the investigation is progressing. Atlanta homicide detectives were in Florida last night, following up on leads in Miami-Dade County and looking for information on a possible suspect, an Atlanta police source said.
Authorities allege that Lewis, 24, participated in the "punching, beating and stabbing" of the victims. He is being held without bail in the Atlanta City Detention Center.
Garland said yesterday that his team was preparing for a bail hearing Monday, when he might learn more about the state's evidence. He also said he has interviewed dozens of witnesses to the incident and they all support Lewis' contention that he was not involved in the stabbings.
"He was about 100 feet away from where the stabbings took place," Garland said, describing his client as trying to prevent a fight in a "peacekeeping effort before the brawl broke out."
"He is not responsible for acts that he does not know take place," said Garland, who made a plea for other witnesses to call his office in Atlanta. "We are trying to put all the pieces together in the 30 or so seconds that changed Ray's life."
Garland met last night with Ravens owner Art Modell and team president David Modell to discuss the investigation, a source familiar with the meeting said. Garland is expected to leave Baltimore this morning, the source said.
Earlier yesterday, Art Modell said he and Ozzie Newsome, the club's vice president of player personnel, would attend Monday's bond hearing if Lewis' attorneys ask. "I'll do anything I can to help Ray," Modell said. "I'm positive he didn't do it. Positive."
An array of confusing and sometimes contradictory stories has emerged over the past week as defense lawyers and police seek out witnesses and other suspects in three states.
Tony Toskov, the owner of All Stretched Out Limousine Service in Linthicum, said yesterday that he never told reporters that the limousine driver had witnessed a stabbing. That would clear up at least one inconsistency. A source familiar with the investigation has said that Fassett saw a fight but never saw the stabbings.
The source also said that Fassett has helped Atlanta police identify two of Lewis' friends who were involved in the Jan. 31 altercation that led to the deaths of Richard Lollar, 24, and Jacinth Baker, 21.
The Fulton County grand jury has met three times since Lewis was charged, but has not returned an indictment against him. The panel is scheduled to meet again tomorrow.
Police say they have not yet found every person believed to have been inside the 40-foot-long limousine and privately complain that witnesses are not being forthcoming. Lewis' lawyers say the football player has not said a word to police about the case.
Authorities publicly named two people whom they think were in the limo with Lewis: Kwame King and a man identified as A. J. Johnson.
There is an A. J. Johnson who played football for the University of Maryland and had a tryout with the Miami Dolphins. He has denied being in Atlanta during Super Bowl weekend and said he talked with police last Friday. A source familiar with the investigation said police are close to clearing him.
King, meanwhile, is staying in a downtown Atlanta hotel under an assumed name and has not yet told authorities what he saw, his lawyer said yesterday.
King, 26, grew up across the street from Lewis in Lakeland, Fla., and was with Lewis in Atlanta for the Super Bowl festivities. He flew home to Tallahassee, where he is a student at Florida A&M University, his relatives have said. He then voluntarily returned to Atlanta over the weekend, and attorney Bruce Morris said his client expects to talk with homicide detectives soon.
King could not be reached to comment yesterday. In a brief interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he said: "All I can say is Ray Lewis is innocent."
Police would not comment yesterday on King or any other aspect of their investigation. They said no new arrests have been made, nor have any warrants been issued.