Lewis may have violated gag order

Lawyer for a co-defendant takes issue with statements made by player, attorney

February 19, 2000|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Questions about whether Ray Lewis or his legal team violated the terms of a gag order have been raised with the judge presiding over the murder case, who intends to meet with attorneys next week to go over the order and other ground rules.

Meanwhile, Lewis, the Ravens' All-Pro middle linebacker, reported yesterday morning for an interview with state officials charged with monitoring the terms of his bail release. Lewis was freed Tuesday on bail after being jailed in Atlanta, where he and two acquaintances have been indicted on murder and assault charges in connection with a double slaying Jan. 31.

Also yesterday, a lawyer representing a Baltimore woman who alleges that Lewis assaulted her in a Baltimore County bar said she was hastily flown by prosecutors to Atlanta to testify against his release on bail. But the would-be witness arrived too late to appear at the bail hearing.

All parties to the case are subject to a gag order imposed by the judge in the bail hearing. The order prohibits publicly expressing "opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant, the evidence, or the merits of the case."

On Thursday, Lewis held a news conference at the Ravens' training center and declared, "I am innocent." His lead attorney, the day before, said he expected never to see Lewis in a jail again except for charity work.

A lawyer for one of Lewis' two co-defendants has "raised some concerns," about those statements, said Eric Owens, case manager for Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner, who now oversees the case.

Owens said that the judge is trying to schedule a meeting for the middle of next week with attorneys in the case and that one topic may be the gag order, including whether it should be modified.

Steve Sadow, lawyer for co-defendant Joseph L. Sweeting, said he didn't raise the issue with the judge and doesn't know if Lewis' statements violate the order. Just in case, he is not planning to declare his client's innocence until after next week's meeting with the judge. He hopes the gag order will be lifted altogether.

The attorney for the other co-defendant, Reginald Oakley, was not available to comment.

Lewis' attorneys and a spokesman for the prosecutor declined to comment on the gag order.

Lewis appeared on schedule at Baltimore's Clarence Mitchell Courthouse for his intake interview with the division of pretrial detention and services of the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said spokeswoman Barbara Cooper.

The conditions of his $1 million release on bail call for him to stay in Maryland except for trips to Georgia to assist in his defense. A trial date has not been scheduled in the case.

"The conditions of the release were explained to Mr. Lewis and he was given a copy of the conditions. Mr. Lewis cooperated fully," Cooper said.

The written instructions call for Lewis to be in his Baltimore County home between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. each day. He also will be subjected to random home visits, and, on a weekly basis, drug and alcohol tests as well as meetings with a pretrial services officer. He also will have to submit a daily itinerary of his activities.

During the hearing that resulted in Lewis' release, prosecutors called a Baltimore woman and asked her to testify.

Catrice Parker, 24, alleges that Lewis and a friend, Eric Carter, hit her early on the morning of Nov. 30 at the Windsor Mill Inn in Baltimore County. Lewis, through an attorney, has denied the allegation.

Parker's lawyer, Dwight Pettit, said he received a call from the Fulton County District Attorney's office in Atlanta at 1 p.m. on Monday -- several hours after the bail hearing had begun.

He and Parker boarded an airplane flight paid for by Fulton County and arrived at 4: 30 p.m., shortly before the judge ruled in Lewis' favor and permitted him to go free on bond.

Pettit said he was surprised at the last-minute request from Atlanta. His client's claims would have advanced the case of authorities who argued unsuccessfully that Lewis was a threat to the community and should remain locked up until his trial, he said.

The attorney said he resisted making the trip and sought assurances that there would be sufficient time to make the hearing.

"It raised my suspicion about their ability to prosecute this case," Pettit said. "It would seem to me, as a criminal lawyer, that this would have been the heart of their case."

Fulton County prosecutors' spokesman Erik Friedly confirmed the circumstances but said he couldn't provide any explanation for the last-minute call to Parker.

In court on Monday, prosecutors had told the judge they were flying in an emergency witness. That afternoon, the judge imposed a 90-minute time limit on both sides to finish, and the clock ran out before Parker was called.

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