Lewis won't be facing assault charges here

Prosecutors plan to drop case today

`discrepancies' of witnesses sway decision

March 22, 2000|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County prosecutors plan to drop assault charges today against Ravens star Ray Lewis, saying there was too much disagreement among witnesses to go forward with the case in which a woman alleges the linebacker punched her in a crowded bar.

A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. today at which the charges will be dropped, according to a letter sent by Baltimore County deputy state's attorney Howard B. Merker to lawyers in the case.

"After review and evaluation of witnesses and statements furnished, total discrepancies are too great for the state to proceed in a criminal prosecution," Merker wrote.

A. Dwight Pettitt, a lawyer for the alleged victim, Catrice Parker, 24, said Parker is certain that it was Lewis who knocked her down and hit her early on the morning of Nov. 30 in the Windsor Inn on Windsor Mill Road. She alleges that Lewis and a companion pushed their way into the crowded bar and hit her and other women who were in the way.

Pettitt said he has a number of witnesses who back up Parker's contentions, and she is considering filing a lawsuit against Lewis.

The Baltimore County dismissal could help Lewis in Atlanta, where he is scheduled to go on trial May 15 on charges of assault and murder stemming from the stabbing deaths of two men outside an Atlanta nightclub on Jan. 31.

If, as expected, defense attorneys attempt to portray Lewis as a peacemaker who tried to break up the deadly fight in Atlanta, prosecutors would be allowed to present evidence of past assaults to refute that characterization.

The Baltimore County incident would carry far greater weight with a jury, however, had the charges not been dropped.

Nevertheless, prosecutors in the murder case are scheduled to be in Baltimore later this week to interview Parker, Pettitt said. They met with her in February, after they flew her to Atlanta with the intention of her testifying against Lewis' request for bail. She was unable to testify then, however, because the prosecutors asked her to come after the hearing had already begun. She arrived too late. Lewis was freed from jail on $1 million bail.

In the Baltimore County incident, Lewis and a companion, Eric Carter, were each charged with second-degree assault. Charges against both are expected to be dismissed today.

"I'm trying to give Mr. Merker the benefit of the doubt. Because of the notoriety of the case, no prosecutor wants to be out there unless they are absolutely sure of the case," Pettitt said.

Merker did not respond to a request to comment yesterday, but has, in the past, expressed concerns about the case. Parker's initial description of her assailants was that of two men significantly smaller than Lewis and Carter. The police report from the incident says Parker had no visible injuries.

Lewis told police that other patrons provoked and goaded him when he arrived at the bar, and that he merely pushed back to protect himself.

Despite the charges being dropped, Pettitt said, the incident could still play a role in Lewis' trial in Atlanta.

There he is charged in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Loller, 24, both of Decatur, Ga. Charged with him are two associates, Joseph Sweeting, 34, of Miami, and Reginald Oakley, 31, of Baltimore.

Attorneys for Lewis declined to comment. He is not expected to attend the hearing this morning.

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