J. Lewis' prison site is likely in Florida

Bureau of Prisons leans to Pensacola, rather than Ala., over conflict concern

Pro Football

February 04, 2005|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

Ravens running back Jamal Lewis is likely going to prison in Florida rather than in Alabama, according to people familiar with his case, after the Federal Bureau of Prisons raised concerns about sending him to the minimum-security facility he had requested.

The questions arose because the Montgomery prison - once nicknamed "Club Fed" - houses defendants convicted in the same federal drug investigation as Lewis, and it was feared that putting the football player back in the mix could cause conflict.

Instead, people close to Lewis said they were told the prisons bureau was looking at sending Lewis to a prison in Pensacola, Fla. He could report as soon as today or tomorrow.

The minimum-security prison is located inside an outlying base that is part of the Pensacola Naval Air Station. It includes three dormitories with a capacity of 200 prisoners each. Inmates typically perform such tasks as grounds maintenance and sanitation.

Most of the 536 prisoners there now are in for drug-related offenses, said Daniel Dunne, spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons.

Dunne declined to confirm that Lewis was being sent to Pensacola, telling a reporter he would provide definitive word once the prisoner reports.

Lewis' destination and timetable were treated like a secret not only by the bureau, which is routinely tight-lipped until inmates are in the system, but by the running back himself.

Two of Lewis' attorneys, Don Samuel and Ed Garland, did not have final word on plans yesterday, Samuel said. The attorney who did know, Jerome Froelich, said last night, "My client has instructed me not to say anything. You can call me tomorrow at noon."

A Ravens official said he, too, did not know last night where Lewis was headed, or when, but was going to find out. If the running back is able to begin serving his sentence this weekend, the timing would be generally favorable for his participating in training camp, which is tentatively scheduled to begin July 31.

Lewis' attorneys had requested that he report to prison faster than most federal inmates do after being sentenced.

When Lewis was sentenced last week to four months on his drug-related guilty plea, Lewis' attorneys requested that he be permitted to serve the time at the Montgomery federal prison camp. The dormitory-like prison is located inside the Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and has been the temporary home of dozens of infamous white-collar criminals such as Watergate defendants John Mitchell and Charles W. Colson.

Chief U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans agreed to recommend that the football player be granted his choice of where to serve, but the final decision, as always, was up to the Prisons Bureau.

Montgomery has a cushy reputation. "If I was serving federal time, that's where I would want to go," said Georgia attorney Dan Summer. Lawyers for Lewis also said last week that its location - a few hours' drive from Atlanta - would be convenient for relatives to visit him.

Doubt the government would go along with his preference arose not only because Lewis was in the same investigation as some inmates there but also because he knew at least one personally. Keaton Lamar "White Boy Keith" Johnson is incarcerated at Montgomery and not due to be released until 2008.

In an indictment last August, the government alleged that Lewis made introductions so that Johnson and a co-conspirator, Neyaunte Stallings, along with Lewis' codefendant, Angelo "Pero" Jackson, could buy cocaine. The drug was to be supplied by a woman who turned out to be a government informant.

The government never proved those allegations and instead reached a plea agreement with Lewis in October. He pleaded guilty to using a cell phone in a drug transaction and agreed to a sentence of four months in prison, followed by two months in a halfway house.

The judge last week also fined him $20,000 and told him to do 500 hours of community service.

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