Oakley's behavior at hotel contested

Lewis friend told clerk he was robbed, then abruptly left

DA tries to recall driver

June 01, 2000|By Jon Morgan and Marego Athans | Jon Morgan and Marego Athans,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

ATLANTA - A Baltimore man being tried on murder charges with Ravens player Ray Lewis told a hotel clerk that he had been robbed, then abruptly left town hours after a deadly brawl - behavior that prosecutors characterized yesterday as a cover-up.

A clerk testified that Reginald Oakley came to the front desk about 8:30 a.m. Jan. 31, saying he had been robbed and needed a new key to his room. He returned 10 minutes later and checked out.

He was wearing a black jogging suit that was too big for him, the witness said. The description does not match the clothing that previous witnesses recalled him wearing. Prosecutors allege that Oakley and Lewis disposed of their clothing because it might have been stained with blood.

The district attorney also began trying to recall a previous witness - Duane Fassett, the Severn man who drove the rented limousine that Lewis and the others used to leave the scene of the killings. Prosecutors want to put him back on the stand to correct their procedural error.

David Irwin, Fassett's attorney, said the driver has become ill because of the trauma of the case and will fight a subpoena. A hearing could be held in Maryland to determine whether returning would be too great a hardship.

In further efforts to overcome disappointing eyewitness accounts, the prosecutors also sought to bring two newly identified members of the Lewis group to testify. They have been identified by other limo passengers as "Gino" and "Claude." Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard was scheduled to interview them by phone last night, and, depending on their accounts, might call them to testify.

Oakley, 31, Lewis, 25, and Joseph Sweeting, 34, of Miami, have been charged in the beating and fatal stabbing of two men in a 4 a.m. fight Jan. 31. The victims were Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, both of Decatur, Ga.

Witness testimony has been strongest against Oakley, with several people saying they saw him fighting with Baker after the Georgia man hit him on the head with a champagne bottle.

In court yesterday, hotel clerk Linda Lawrence said Oakley had a small bandage under his left ear. "On his way out, I told him I hoped that he got some rest on the plane because he looked very tired," she said.

Witnesses have said he declined to seek medical care until he returned to Baltimore.

Oakley had been scheduled to fly home at 10:15 p.m. on the Monday after the Super Bowl. But he went to the airport that morning and attempted to get a standby seat on several flights before finding room on a 4 p.m. departure, according to a Delta Air Lines employee.

Robert Hogan, a revenue analyst for Delta, testified that Oakley checked two bags on his flight into Atlanta a few days before the killings. On the return flight, he had none.

Under questioning from David Wolfe, one of Oakley's attorneys, however, Hogan acknowledged that Oakley could have carried on his luggage.

During a break in the trial, Howard accused Oakley of making up the story about being robbed "to cover up the injury" so hotel employees wouldn't connect him to the crime.

But Wolfe noted that Oakley traveled under his own name and wasn't trying to hide.

"There's no evidence that he was not robbed," Wolfe said. "During the altercation he lost his property. Nobody turned it up at the crime scene, but he didn't have it."

Prosecutors began yesterday to map out the "trail of blood" that they promised in opening statements last week would lead to Lewis and his co-defendants.

An Atlanta police technician testified yesterday that she lifted samples of blood from at least 15 places inside the limo, including the seat that Lewis used. The blood matched Baker, Oakley and Sweeting's, prosecutors said last week.

Defense attorneys questioned her about procedures, suggesting that the technician did an incomplete job of collecting blood samples and that the crime scene could have been contaminated.

Prosecutors focused on Lewis' hotel room, where they say they found his blood on three pillowcases and a robe. They also say they found blood on a baseball cap in his limo. His lawyers say he suffers from a scalp condition that causes his head to bleed. His mother and trainer might testify to that effect.

Lewis wouldn't have lain on the bed the morning after the fight, Lewis attorney Tony Axam said during a break. "He isn't coming back to his room at 6 o'clock in the morning, laying down on his pillow and going to sleep," Axam said.

Howard said the blood was fresh that morning and was a result of the crime. Contending that Lewis took part in a cover-up, prosecutors used his flight records to raise questions about why he left his clothes in Atlanta the day of the fight, when he was scheduled to fly to Hawaii that day to play in the Pro Bowl and not return to Atlanta.

"Why do you leave your clothes in Atlanta if you're not coming back to Atlanta?" Howard asked during a break. Lewis attorney Edward T.M. Garland declined to comment, saying: "The evidence will come out."

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