Lewis trial witnesses fashionable but forgetful

This Just In...

May 31, 2000|By Dan Rodricks

THERE ARE TWO guys named "Shorty" in this case -- a live one and a dead one. For a few minutes yesterday morning, the live Shorty had an odd little smile as he left his seat in Room 1A of the Fulton County courthouse. Shorty, which is what most everyone calls Ray Lewis' co-defendant Joseph Sweeting, must have found something amusing in the proceedings. Or maybe -- and this is just speculation on my part, your honor -- after nearly a week of testimony, Sweeting let his courtroom guard down a bit and betrayed a belief that the case against him is thin.

If that's what he thought, he would not have been alone.

A lot of people are still waiting for the state's case -- "the trail of blood" -- to show up, and it's due any day.

But so far, eyewitness testimony has yielded this: A gangsta rap artist from Ohio, one of a handful of friends of stabbing victims Jacinth "Shorty" Baker and Richard Lollar, said he saw Lewis "tussle" with Lollar in the fight down the street from the Cobalt Lounge early on Monday, Jan. 31. A woman who was a guest in Lewis' stretch limousine saw something similarly vague. Another guy, Lewis' limousine driver, said he saw the Ravens brawny linebacker raise a fist during the fight, but not land a punch. And a third guy, an admitted con man, said he saw the Ravens linebacker kicking a guy when he was down on East Paces Ferry Road.

That's about it on No. 52.

Oh yeah, several people heard Lewis say, "I'm not going to end my career like this," or some variation of that statement, within an hour or so of the stabbings.

Not that that's incriminating or anything. Ray Lewis is accused of murder and assault, not self-pity.

Yesterday, Lewis wore a dark suit and, as he has done throughout the trial, remained silent, emotionless and expressionless, in contrast to the sometimes sly-smiling Sweeting, a veteran of jails and courthouses, and nearly 10 years Lewis' senior. The other defendant, Reginald "A.J." Oakley, sat between Lewis and Sweeting and their lawyers, taking notes on a large pad. These men do not speak to one another in the courtroom, and they rarely make eye contact.

From the start, the prosecution had a daunting task -- proving murder stemming from a street brawl. It was made tougher by a rough first week of testimony that turned up lame. Yesterday, things did not improve dramatically, at least not in the early going.

For instance, the state brought a tall, beautiful young woman into the courtroom -- Rehana Grant -- and they asked her a load of questions about her big Super Bowl night out with the Lewis party, and she didn't have much to add. This is speculation on my part, your honor, but perhaps the five or six drinks Grant consumed at the Cobalt diminished her ability to retain certain facts.

For instance, as she was standing outside Lewis' limousine about the time several other witnesses saw a fight, could Grant see who was fighting?

No.

Did she see anyone stab Richard Lollar?

No.

How about Shorty Baker?

No.

But Grant was there when everyone in the Lewis party suddenly hustled back into the limousine, and in a moment shots rang out. A group of 11 men and women dropped to the floor as bullets hit the stretch and flattened one of its tires.

Did anyone say anything?

No.

Did anyone ask why the limo was being fired upon?

No.

After the limo went to a Holiday Inn parking lot, to let everyone get out and call cabs, was anything discussed?

No.

Several members of the Lewis party took cabs back to another hotel where the Ravens' All-Pro linebacker had a room for Super Bowl weekend. Could Grant say what happened there?

"We went up to Ray's room and just kinda stood around."

Despite her poor recall of facts about the fight and its immediate aftermath, Grant does remember exactly what she was wearing during her big night in Buckhead: "Mink jacket, turquoise see-through blouse, floral pants and turquoise shoes."

She remembers what Lewis was wearing: A cream-colored suit with navy blue or black pinstripes, a black, floor-length mink coat and matching hat. In the hotel room, Lewis changed into a T-shirt and shorts, and she heard him say -- as so many have -- that this mess in Atlanta was "not going to end my career."

Did Grant ever calls the cops?

No.

Why?

"I was in a state of shock."

Or maybe a state of denial.

During her comings and goings in the limo, a cab and a friend's car, did Grant remember stopping at a Burger King so one of the men could discard something -- perhaps blood-stained clothing -- in a Dumpster?

No. She couldn't remember that, either.

Next witness: Lemetrice "Mechi" Twitty, friend of the victims and, like Lollar and Baker, an Akron, Ohio, native who had moved to the hip-and-happenin' Atlanta area. He's a barber.

For his court appearance, Twitty wrapped about his ample body a roomy brown velvet pinstriped suit, a great-looking piece.

Had Twitty seen a fight outside the Cobalt?

No. He was too busy hitting on women for phone numbers and maybe even an invitation home.

Had he seen anyone stabbed?

No.

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