Lewis changed suit after fight, woman says

Man may testify next week about disposing of clothes

Witness saw victim kicked

May 27, 2000|By Jon Morgan and Marego Athans | Jon Morgan and Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - In a day marked by surprises in the courtroom, a witness in the murder trial of Ray Lewis testified yesterday that the football player changed his clothes after a deadly street brawl and that she saw another man dispose of a bag that may have held the garments.

The man who allegedly disposed of the bag - potentially incriminating evidence that has not been found - gained a tentative immunity agreement yesterday that would allow him to testify after the trial resumes Tuesday.

Another witness, Chester Anderson, became the first to testify that he saw Lewis strike one of the victims. But a lawyer for the Ravens linebacker got the state's witness to acknowledge guilt to a federal fraud charge for which he is under indictment.

The defense attorney, in the style of a Hollywood courtroom drama, then had the victim of the fraud -a Texas man flown here for the occasion - stand up amid the spectators for the jury to see.

Anderson regained some of the credibility he had lost in the maneuver when a friend took the stand and corroborated parts of his testimony against Lewis.

Lewis, 25, is being tried on charges of assault and murder in connection with the Jan. 31 incident, along with Reginald Oakley, 31, of Baltimore and Joseph Sweeting, 34, of Miami.

Prosecutors opened their attack yesterday by calling Keiva Walls, a 30-year-old hairstylist from Houston. She had joined Lewis and his group for some parties during the weekend the Super Bowl was played here.

She was with Lewis and his entourage when a street fight broke out at 4 a.m. the day after the game, when Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, were stabbed to death. Walls told jurors that she didn't see anyone get hit and wasn't aware of the deaths until later when she learned of them from news broadcasts. But she provided potentially damaging circumstantial evidence about the suit Lewis had worn.

Walls' cousin, Jessica Robertson, previously obtained immunity from prosecutors in the case and turned over several bags of clothing that she said Lewis had asked her to hold in the hours after the fight as he prepared to leave town to play in the Pro Bowl.

Walls, who was able to recall in detail what everyone was wearing, described Lewis' suit as white with black squares. When shown the suits Robertson had given police, Walls said none matched the one Lewis wore that morning.

She also testified that Lewis changed clothes when the group returned to his hotel room. He then "put his head down and said, `I'm not trying to end my NFL career like this,'" she said.

Soon afterward, she, another woman and a man, Carlos Stafford, left together, pulling over at a fast-food restaurant. Stafford got out with a grocery bag and walked toward a Dumpster. The group then went to another hotel.

Outside the courtroom, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said that police have never recovered the bag, the suit Lewis was seen wearing or the knives believed used in the killings.

"They made a big deal about turning over the clothing to us," he said of the clothing provided by Robertson and her attorney. Robertson may appear next week.

"Where's the suit?" Howard asked. Donald Samuel, an attorney for Lewis, said he doesn't know what became of the suit Lewis wore that morning, but that anything that happened after the fight is "irrelevant." The testimony about the Dumpster is "pretty shallow evidence," he said.

Lewis contends that he was acting as a peacemaker during the fight and never hit, kicked or stabbed anyone. Another Lewis attorney, Edward T.M. Garland, said, "The issue of what happened to the clothes will come out in the evidence; it will come out in the facts in the case."

Stafford reached a tentative immunity agreement with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony, which could come as early as Tuesday, said his attorney, Dwight Thomas. The deal, which Stafford has sought for weeks to protect him from being charged in the incident, requires a judge's signature.

Thomas declined to reveal what Stafford will tell the jury, but said it will help clear one or more of the defendants and prove "damaging" to others. He said Stafford never hit or stabbed anyone and was not the man some witnesses have described as holding a knife early in the fight.

As for whether Stafford disposed of evidence, Thomas said, "All that will be cleared up. ... A lot of dots will be connected with Carlos' testimony."

Later yesterday, Anderson, a 25-year-old unemployed Kansas City man with a long record of scheming to get "something for nothing" as he put it, said he was celebrating the Super Bowl in the same upscale nightclub district as Lewis on Jan. 31. As the bars closed, Anderson said he and two men were walking down the street when he saw Lewis repeatedly kicking a man later identified as Baker, one of the victims.

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