Trial opens in lawsuit alleging Lewis assault

Two women say Raven hit them, seek $6 million

April 16, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County jury is being asked to decide whether Ravens All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis hit two women during a melee in a Woodlawn tavern after watching a Monday night football game in November 1999.

Catrice Hill and Sherita A. Williams have filed a $6 million assault and battery lawsuit against Lewis in Baltimore County Circuit Court stemming from an incident Nov. 29, 1999, at the Windsor Inn on Windsor Mill Road.

A. Dwight Pettit, the lawyer for the women, told jurors in opening statements yesterday that his clients were trying to edge their way out of the crowded tavern and confronted Eric Carter, a friend of Lewis', because he was blocking their path.

Williams put Carter in a headlock and Hill grabbed his arms before Lewis came to Carter's defense by hitting Hill so hard that she crashed against the bar and fell to the ground, Pettit said.

Lewis then hit Williams on the shoulder, and she also fell backward, Pettit said.

"He came at them with the full ferocity of a middle linebacker, like we see on the football field," Pettit said.

Lewis, who had spent the day shopping with friends in Washington, left the bar and got into a rented limousine, where a police officer asked his identity at Hill's insistence, he said.

Pettit said the women's account is supported by hospital records and a statement of charges that Hill filed with a District Court commissioner in Catonsville shortly after the incident.

Lewis' lawyer told jurors yesterday that Lewis was not involved in the fight and that the women are confusing Lewis with Carter, who is much smaller.

"Ray was not involved in this fight. Ray did not hit anybody," Ronald M. Cherry said.

Cherry said the women assaulted Carter during a fight that he called a "mini-riot."

"They were in there mixing it up just like a couple of prizefighters," Cherry said.

In testimony yesterday, Hill said she and Williams were trying to leave when Carter blocked them. Hill testified that she grabbed Carter's arms to keep him under control and that Lewis came at her.

"When I went to turn, that's when Mr. Lewis struck me in the face," Hill testified.

Under cross-examination, she acknowledged that she might have been fighting with "three to four men" in the bar that night. Hill, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall, said she stood "eye to eye" with Lewis as he approached her.

Cherry emphasized that Lewis is much taller than Hill, and he had the 6-foot-1-inch, 260-pound Lewis stand up.

Cherry also emphasized that Hill described Lewis as being 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 160 pounds in the statement of charges she filed with a District Court commissioner.

"I was upset," Hill said when asked about the discrepancy.

The case, being heard before Judge John O. Hennegan, is expected to go the jury tomorrow or Thursday.

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