Cognac, knives and fists

Lewis testifies for the prosecution, and against friends

`There was a big brawl'

Linebacker tells of events before fatal street fight

June 07, 2000|By Jon Morgan and Marego Athans | Jon Morgan and Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - Ravens star Ray Lewis took the stand for the first time yesterday, describing a moment when "all hell broke loose" and demonstrating on a manikin some of the blows struck in the course of a vicious street fight that left two men dead.

Lewis testified for the prosecution, describing how three of the companions with him early Jan. 31 took part in the brawl and that one of them afterward demonstrated to him how he had held a knife.

The testimony, coming a day after Lewis pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction in exchange for having felony charges against him dropped, revived Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard's faltering case against the two other men.

But even if it prevents the judge from throwing out the case, it might not win a conviction. Lewis also provided evidence for self-defense claims for Reginald Oakley, 31, of Baltimore, and Joseph Sweeting, 24, of Miami. Both men are charged with assault and murder in the stabbing deaths of two Decatur, Ga., men.

Lewis said Oakley and Sweeting had been attacked by members of the victims' group early Jan. 31 and that he never saw them stabbing anyone.

Under questioning from Howard, who until this week had been trying to lock up Lewis for the rest of his life, the player described the sequence of events that left Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, dead.

Two days before the fight, Lewis said he was riding in his rented stretch limousine with Sweeting and Oakley when the two showed them folding knives they had just purchased. Prosecutors allege these were the murder weapons.

"They said, `Hey man, look at these knives we bought,'" Lewis said. "I said, `Hey man, you all are tripping with the knives.'"

Lewis' entourage picked up members as it made its way through a weekend of parties, including one hosted by NBA legend Magic Johnson.

On Super Bowl Sunday, the group ended up at a nightclub. After several hours and three or four servings of Remy Martin cognac, Lewis led the group out of the bar and down the street toward his waiting limousine. On the way he heard some of those lagging behind him encounter five or six strangers, he said. Lewis turned and saw Oakley talking angrily and gesturing at them.

"He was the aggressor at that point. He was really hostile at these guys," Lewis said. Lewis said he grabbed Oakley by the waist and pulled him up the street, back to the limousine. "I was asking, `What are you doing? We don't have time to argue. Let it go,'" the 240-pound linebacker testified.

Lewis said he got his group into the limousine and was standing outside with Sweeting when the other group - men with roots in Akron, Ohio - passed by on the sidewalk. Then they turned and began heading back to the limousine, he said.

'Everybody was just fighting'

Then, for reasons Lewis said he doesn't know, Oakley hopped out and headed toward the Akron group. One man, later identified as Baker, hit Oakley on the side of the head with a full bottle of Moet champagne, opening a cut behind Oakley's ear but not breaking the bottle.

"All hell broke loose at that point," Lewis said. "Everybody was just fighting."

Sweeting , a slightly built man known to friends as "Shorty," went to Oakley's aid but was grabbed by two larger men. One of them dragged Sweeting a few feet by his shirt, pulling it from the back of his neck - a maneuver Sweeting's attorney had Lewis demonstrate on Sweeting in one of several bits of courtroom theatrics yesterday.

Lewis said he looked over and saw Oakley and Baker in the street. "That was a frantic fight. They was really going at it," he testified.

On a cloth manikin provided by prosecutors, Lewis demonstrated how he saw Oakley at one point standing behind Baker, punching down at him, landing blows to his chest as the man slumped to the ground.

Prosecutors allege that Oakley held a knife between his fingers while punching Baker, masking from observers what he was doing.

In a key point expected to help defense attorneys, Lewis testified that another member of his group, Carlos Stafford of Texas, joined in the fight against Baker, kicking him. Lewis said he later overheard Stafford say he picked up the unbroken bottle and smashed Baker with it.

Prosecutors have said they are considering charging another man - believed to be Stafford - based upon Lewis' testimony. Stafford's attorney has said his client committed no crimes.

Meanwhile, Sweeting was being hit by two men, Lewis said. "He was fighting back, he was throwing punches in the chest area," he testified.

'Let's go, let's go

"All of this took less than a minute. It was like there was a big brawl. I was yelling the whole time, `Let's go, let's go,' and nobody was leaving so I ran back to my limo and said, `I'm out of here,'" he said.

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