Fla. suspect in Atlanta stabbings has criminal record dating to 1984

34-year-old was once linked to drug gang, authorities say

February 12, 2000|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Florida man alleged to be one of Ray Lewis' accomplices in the Super Bowl killings is a 34-year-old with a long criminal record whom authorities once linked to a violent street gang responsible for drug dealing and drive-by shootings.

Joseph L. Sweeting's police record stretches to 1984, when he was sentenced to a year in jail for grand theft in Northern Florida's Duval County, which encompasses Jacksonville.

Over the next decade he had at least five felony convictions, served time in state and federal prisons and was alleged to have been involved in a gang known as the "Untouchables."

Sweeting's address is listed at his parent's home in the Goulds section of Miami. Calls to the home went unanswered yesterday, but the Miami Herald quoted Joseph Sweeting Sr. as saying he didn't know anything about the charges and that his son does not live at the home.

"As far as I know he's a nice kid," said Fannie Norris, who lives across the street.

Norris, 72, described the Sweetings as a good family that had lived in the single-family, concrete house for a number of years. The father works in construction and the mother, Daisy, at a hair salon, Norris said.

A grand jury indicted Sweeting yesterday, along with Lewis and a former Baltimore man, Reginald Oakley, on charges of murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The charges stem from a brawl after the Super Bowl in which two men were stabbed outside an Atlanta nightclub.

Authorities say Lewis, who is in custody, is a longtime associate of Oakley's and Sweeting's and that he has lied since his arrest to protect them. The two are sought on federal fugitive warrants.

In 1985, when Sweeting was 19, he was arrested with two other men after a car chase through Plantation, Fla., according to news reports at the time. The chase began after police spotted the suspects driving a stolen car. Sweeting pleaded guilty to grand theft auto and received a year in jail, authorities said.

The next year, he was caught by police allegedly burglarizing a home. He fled to a nearby house and was arrested. He received a two-year sentence for burglary, resisting arrest without violence and two counts of grand theft, according to court records.

In 1988, police, responding to an anonymous tip about gang-related cocaine sales, arrested Sweeting and his brother, Anthony, at a home in Miami where weapons also were found. Trial testimony linked the brothers to the Untouchables, which authorities described as a violent street gang responsible for drive-by shootings and narcotics trafficking, according to court records.

Later, Sweeting spent several years in federal prison for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Within months of his release, he was charged again for possession of a firearm and returned to prison for parole violation. He was released to a halfway house in 1994, said a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Sun staff writer Del Quentin Wilber and news researcher Jean Packard contributed to this article.

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