Lawyer alleges victim had gun

Co-defendant attorney in Lewis case signals self-defense strategy

February 26, 2000|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Signaling a possible self-defense strategy for one of Ray Lewis' co-defendants, an attorney in the case has asked to analyze a gun that he alleges had been brought to the murder scene by one of the stabbing victims.

Steven H. Sadow, a lawyer for Joseph L. Sweeting, filed a motion on Thursday asking the judge in the double-murder case for permission to "examine, test and analyze the firearm" that the lawyer said was "believed to have been obtained" from Richard Lollar.

Lollar, 24, and a friend, Jacinth D. Baker, 21, were found stabbed to death early on the morning of Jan. 31, outside a nightclub in Atlanta. The pair grew up in Akron, Ohio, and moved to Decatur, Ga., a few years ago.

Lewis, an All-Pro linebacker for the Ravens, has been indicted for assault and murder in the case, along with Sweeting and another co-defendant, Reginald Oakley.

The one-page request filed with Fulton County Superior Court said a gun in Lollar's possession may have been fired by an associate at the scene of the crime.

Five gunshots struck the 35-foot-long limousine in which Sweeting, Lewis and Oakley were riding as the vehicle sped from the scene of the killing. After the slayings, police found a .45 caliber handgun on the lawn of a hairdresser nearby, but have not said whether it has been linked to the crime.

One source familiar with the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said yesterday that police have determined that the bullets found in the limousine do not match the gun that was recovered from the lawn.

At the time of his death, Baker was being sought by authorities in Ohio for violating probation in connection with a firearm offense, according to Jennifer Richards, a spokeswoman in the Summit County Prosecutor's office in Akron. Baker was indicted in 1997 for carrying a concealed weapon and possession of marijuana, but pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of improperly handling a firearm.

He received probation, which he apparently violated the next year when he was indicted for possession of cocaine and driving with an open container of alcohol. He failed to appear for his arrangement and a warrant was outstanding for his arrest at the time of his death in Atlanta.

Lollar, too, had a drug record. He was arrested in Ohio in 1996 and charged with the felony of aggressive trafficking in narcotics. The grand jury, however, reduced the indictment to "drug abuse-Marijuana," a misdemeanor drug possession. He pleaded guilty and paid a $100 fine. Later that same year he was again arrested for possession of marijuana, pleaded guilty and paid an $85 fine.

His fiancee, Kellye Smith of Decatur, said she didn't think the gun was Lollar's.

"He never owned one and didn't believe in it," Smith said.

Sadow declined to comment on his gun motion. He also formally requested a speedy trial for Sweeting, meaning the case must be under way by the end of June. The trial is set to begin with jury selection May 12, but Sadow said he made his motion in case one of the other defendants requests a separate trial.

Any of the three defendants can get his own trial, but none has requested that to date. Sadow said he does not intend to sever Sweeting's proceedings, but wanted to ensure a trial by June 30 in case the other defendants break away.

"We simply believe it is in our best interest to have a speedy trial," Sadow said.

Sweeting has waived his right to an arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty.

Sweeting, 34, of Miami, has a lengthly record that includes auto theft, firearms offenses and burglary.

A lawyer for Lewis, Don Samuel, said yesterday the player has not decided yet whether to seek a separate trial.

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