Lewis assault charges dropped

Baltimore Co. prosecutor says case `not appropriate' for criminal prosecution

March 23, 2000|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

The prosecutor who yesterday dropped assault charges against Ray Lewis related to an alleged bar fight in Baltimore County said the case was not strong enough to present to a jury.

"There were a number of discrepancies and based upon our investigation we felt it was not appropriate to bring the case to criminal prosecution," said Baltimore County deputy state's attorney Howard B. Merker.

Lewis, a star linebacker for the Ravens who faces murder charges in a separate case in Atlanta, had been charged with second-degree assault after a pregnant woman and two companions alleged he pushed and hit them at the Windsor Inn on Nov. 30.

Yesterday, in a hearing in Baltimore County District Court in Catonsville that lasted less than a minute, Merker announced his decision to Judge J. Marshall Seidler, who then dismissed the case. Lewis did not attend.

The prosecutor received witness statements and investigative reports from attorneys for Lewis and the alleged victims, Catrice Parker, 24, Sherita Williams, 24, and Ericka Ury, 23. The three women all told police they were struck by Lewis and his companion, Eric Carter, as the men pushed their way into the bar.

"I made a concerted effort to contact all witnesses and parties to the case," Merker said. He said he was not able to reach all of them. Lewis could be re-charged in the case if evidence warranted it, but that is unlikely to happen, Merker said.

Lewis attorney C. Carey Deeley Jr. of Towson hailed the prosecutor's decision.

"I think it took a lot of courage for the Baltimore County State's Attorneys office," Deeley said. "It reflects the appropriate judgment that the case should not be prosecuted and the charges were groundless."

Carter's lawyer, Richard M. Karceski of Towson, said his client was not involved in the fight at the Windsor Inn. "Mere presence is never enough to even implicate someone in the commission of a crime," Karceski said.

Prosecutors in the Atlanta murder case planned to come to Baltimore this week to meet with Parker, presumably with an eye toward using her testimony to refute character witnesses that Lewis' defense team may call to testify.

Deeley said the Atlanta prosecutors should also meet with Merker to discuss why he dropped the charges. "This illustrates how public figures are often mistaken for being involved," Deeley said.

A. Dwight Pettit, an attorney for Parker, who was about three months pregnant at the time of the Windsor Inn incident, said the dismissal wouldn't harm his chance of winning a lawsuit against Lewis. He and an attorney for another of the other alleged victims are exploring that option.

Merker's decision, Pettit said, was "within his discretion."

"I think it would have been more objective to let a court decide among the differing accounts and witnesses. Let the jury decide," Pettit said.

The Ravens, in a written statement, said, "This is an indication that things are often not what they appear to be at first look. We continue to appreciate and have confidence in the due process that was completed by Baltimore County Police and the State's Attorneys office."

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