Lewis aided friend, woman says

Limousine passenger bolsters both sides

May 31, 2000|By Jon Morgan and Marego Athans | Jon Morgan and Marego Athans,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

ATLANTA - A woman who was with Ray Lewis on the night two men were stabbed to death in a street brawl testified yesterday that she saw the Ravens linebacker shoving a man during the fight but said he appeared to be protecting a friend.

Evelyn Sparks, a 24-year-old physical therapy student from Chicago, proved a mixed bag for prosecutors. She bolstered the defense when she described Lewis co-defendant Joseph Sweeting being attacked by two men and then Lewis pushing one of the attackers away.

But she helped the prosecution when she testified that after the fight she saw another member of the Lewis party dump a bag that made a clanking sound into a fast- food restaurant trash container. Prosecutors contend that the bag may have contained the suit Lewis was wearing and the knives used in the killings - none of which have been recovered by police.

Sparks also testified that another woman who was with Lewis that night, Jessica Robertson, destroyed a photograph of the group taken earlier in the evening. The photo could have helped the prosecution identify what the defendants were wearing. Prosecutors contend that the clothes turned over to them were not what Lewis was wearing that night.

Sparks had the photograph in her purse, she said, but discovered it missing the day after the fight.

"Jessica said she took it out of my purse," Sparks testified. "She said she burned it."

Defense attorneys will cross-examine Sparks today.

Sparks' testimony was the most detailed description from a limousine passenger of the brawl, which broke out about 4 a.m. Jan. 31 as the city celebrated the Super Bowl the night before.

She testified that she saw Sweeting with one man in front of him and one behind. As he held down the arms of the man in front of him, the man behind him was being pushed away by Lewis, she said. She soon heard Lewis say, "Come on, let's leave," she testified.

The group piled into the limousine, and she saw blood on Sweeting's upper lip she said.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorneys said Sparks' testimony strengthened their case.

Prosecutors allege that Sweeting, 34, of Miami and Lewis, 25, beat and stabbed Richard Lollar, 24, of Decatur, Ga. Another co-defendant, Reginald Oakley, 31, of Baltimore is accused of beating and stabbing the other victim, Jacinth Baker, 21, also of Decatur. All three co-defendants are charged with aggravated assault and murder.

Prosecutors also said yesterday they were close to producing two new witnesses who might be able to clarify the confusing jumble of testimony presented so far. One, Eugenio Hutcherson of New York, has been called to testify, according to court documents.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard declined to comment on Hutcherson. One source familiar with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the man is apparently the limousine passenger referred to as "Gino" by witnesses.

Investigators got Hutcherson's name and that of another man, known as "Claudius" or "Claudus," from Carlos Stafford of Houston. Stafford, who was a passenger in the limousine, spoke with investigators briefly last week for the first time.

Defense attorneys say that Stafford was involved in the fight, something his attorney denies. Yesterday, Sparks testified that Stafford had blood on his pant leg after the fight.

He and prosecutors reached a tentative agreement last week on possible immunity in return for his testimony, but both sides were apparently reconsidering.

Earlier yesterday, the man who pumped five slugs into the limousine as it sped away testified that he didn't see who stabbed his two friends but thought they left in the limousine.

"The people that was in the limo was the guys who hurt the two guys lying in the street," said Marlon Burros, 34, a music producer and pit-bull breeder from Decatur.

Burros said he only saw "commotion" from down the street as he left a nightclub. By the time he got there, Baker and Lollar were lying motionless on the street and five to 10 people were running toward the parked limousine, he said.

Burros said he ran a half-block to his car, grabbed his semiautomatic pistol from under the back seat and jogged back to the fight scene, firing as he went.

He squeezed off seven rounds, emptying the clip, he testified. Five of the shots hit the limousine, clustered in the area around the right front tire. No one was hurt by the gunfire, and Burros said he was trying to stop the car.

Burros was unable to identify any of the people in the fight, and denied being involved himself - an assertion some of the defense attorneys called into question. They have alleged that Lollar had the gun and that Burros or someone else picked it up and fired.

Under cross-examination, Burros was unable to explain why shell casings from his gun were found on the bodies. Based on his description, the casings should have been farther down the street.

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