Lewis' answers to police revealed

Prosecutors stress evasions about his companions in limo

`With the wrong people'

June 02, 2000|By Jon Morgan and Marego Athans | Jon Morgan and Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - Jurors in the Ray Lewis murder trial heard yesterday about the football player's evasive interview with police, in which he denied knowing anything about the killing of two men hours earlier and confided, "I was just with the wrong people."

Prosecutors say the encounter, including Lewis' refusal to name fellow passengers in the limousine he had rented, proves Lewis was covering up a crime.

Defense lawyers had tried repeatedly to keep Lewis' interview out of the trial.

The remark that seemed to cast aspersions on Lewis' co-defendants was immediately challenged by their attorneys. But the judge rejected their calls for a mistrial.

In another display of disunity among the three men on trial, attorneys for Lewis managed to keep jurors from hearing about co-defendant Reginald Oakley's concerns in the days after the two killings.

In conversations with friends, Oakley expressed fears that he would be "the fall guy" and that Lewis and the other man police were seeking, Joseph Sweeting, would team up against him.

Also yesterday:

Prosecutors made no progress in their efforts to recall the limo driver, Duane Fassett. "He's in the hospital," Tony Toskov, owner of All Stretched Out Limousine Service in Linthicum, said of his employee. Toskov said he did not know which hospital and declined to elaborate. Fassett's lawyer, David B. Irwin, said, "He is in Maryland, and he is not hiding out."

Defense attorneys said they are preparing their requests for a directed verdict - asking the judge to throw out the case after the prosecution rests, a routine procedure that rarely persuades judges.

A witness' statement was read to jurors contradicting the testimony of Chester Anderson, a convicted con artist who is so far the only witness to testify to seeing Lewis strike anyone.

The district attorney continued to negotiate with three passengers who were riding in the limousine who might yet testify about the brawl at 4 a.m. Jan. 31 that led to a double homicide.

On the day of the killings, police first contacted Lewis after they found his disabled limousine in a hotel parking lot and the driver revealed the player's cell phone number. Lewis told police he would be willing to come to their headquarters but wasn't sure how to get there, Detective James E. Edmonds testified yesterday.

Edmonds and Lt. Michael C. Smith, head of the department's homicide /assault unit, went to pick up Lewis at the suburban Norcross, Ga., home where his fiancee was staying with relatives.

They arrived a half-hour later and Lewis said he had spoken with a lawyer and been advised not to go to the police station, Smith said. He also said he was in a hurry to catch a flight to Hawaii, where he was scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl.

But Lewis did agree to answer some questions, which Smith transcribed on a computer that was in the home. The result represents Lewis' only official statement to police about the morning on which Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, were killed.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard alleges that Lewis and two men he was with that morning at a Super Bowl celebration beat and stabbed the victims in a street fight. Lewis, 25, is charged with assault and murder, along with Oakley, 31, of Baltimore, and Sweeting, 34, of Miami.

Lewis says he was merely trying to break up the fight. All three men have pleaded not guilty.

'Just club people'

In his two-hour session with police Jan. 31, Lewis at first said he didn't know any of the 10 other passengers who rode with him in the 37-foot limousine. "They were just club people," he said.

Later he said one was "A. J. Johnson," an alias used by Oakley.

He specifically said one man, childhood friend and college student Kwame King, was not there. Witnesses have since said King was in the limo and was present during the fight. So was Sweeting, a longtime friend whom the NFL star never mentioned to police.

At one point, Lewis followed Smith outside and explained that he didn't want to say too much around his fiancee. Lewis said he had been with a girlfriend at the time of the incident and "was with the wrong people," Smith said.

Attorneys for Lewis failed in a pretrial hearing last month to keep the statement to Smith out of the trial, arguing that he gave it under threat. The lawyers tried again yesterday, claiming the document was not properly prepared and signed by the player and did not contain a full transcription of everything he said.

Prosecution opportunity

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner rejected that argument, and prosecutors took full advantage of the opportunity. They provided each juror a copy of the three-page document, flashed it up on a screen and had Edmonds read aloud each question and answer.

Under questioning by defense attorneys, Smith acknowledged that Lewis had called the police later in the day and offered to speak with them at his attorney's home. Instead, police got a warrant and arrested Lewis.

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