ATLANTA - A civil suit seeking $11 million in punitive and compensatory damages against Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, his co-defendants and others connected with the Jan. 31, 2000 deaths of Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker was filed yesterday in Fulton County State Court.
The wrongful death suit was filed in the name of India Smith, Lollar's daughter by his girlfriend, Kellye Smith, said attorney John P. Wilson III, a partner in the Atlanta law firm Weinstock & Scavo. India Smith will be 1 in March.
Named as defendants in the suit are Lewis; Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley, who stood trial with Lewis and were acquitted of the murders of Lollar and Baker; Kwame King and Carlos Stafford, two passengers in Lewis' limousine the night of the slayings; and Cobalt LLC, the limited liability corporation identified as the owner of the Cobalt lounge.
Lewis was charged with murder after the fatal street fight that erupted after a post-Super Bowl party at the Cobalt. However, the charge was dropped during a four-week trial last spring. Lewis pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice and testified against Oakley and Sweeting.
No one else has been charged in the stabbing deaths, to the dismay of relatives. Lewis was fined $250,000 by the NFL but went on to become its Defensive Player of the Year and MVP of this year's Super Bowl, won by Baltimore.
"I think that once we pull it together, and if we're successful in this pursuit, then at least it will represent a form of justice for family members," Michael Weinstock, the plaintiff's lead attorney, told WSB-TV.
Wilson said the basis of the suit is that Lewis and others knew or should have known what was about to happen that night after Super Bowl XXXIV.
The victims were stabbed to death. During the trial, the prosecution showed knives it claimed had been purchased at a Sports Authority store. The suit claims Lewis was consulted about knives and "was aware of the backgrounds of the people with whom he was associating," Wilson said.
Wilson noted that in a civil suit, the plaintiff is required only to show a preponderance of evidence, instead of evidence that goes beyond a reasonable doubt.
But defense attorneys in the criminal trial reacted with scorn when asked about yesterday's filing.
"It is totally without merit," said Lewis lead defense attorney Ed Garland. "There's nothing about these allegations that was not completely known at the time of the criminal trial."
Civil suits are occasionally brought in murder cases that do not result in convictions, most notoriously in the case of O. J. Simpson, who was acquitted in the killing of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald L. Goldman, in June 1994, but later was found liable for the killings in a civil lawsuit filed by the victims' families.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.