By Todd Richissin
February 2, 2000
Lewis had been in Atlanta since Wednesday for what was supposed to have been Super Bowl-sized revelry through the week and then a personal send-off Monday to Honolulu for his third straight Pro Bowl.
Instead, he stood silently before Judge Elaine L. Carlisle in Atlanta Municipal Court yesterday morning wearing a red prison uniform, his hands cuffed and resting in front of him, two murder charges hanging over his head.
Police, meanwhile, stashed the limousine driver in an unnamed hotel, providing him protective custody until they can get him on a flight to Baltimore. He apparently told investigators that Lewis was not responsible for the stabbings and provided information on two other suspects who were in the limousine when the men were stabbed.
Lewis, 24, the defensive soul of the Ravens for the past four years and one of the team's brightest hopes for the future, was arrested Monday night. He had been at the Cobalt Lounge, a club in the bustling Buckhead district, for a Super Bowl party that stretched into the early hours of Monday morning after Sunday's game.
He apparently left the club and the $100-a-head party about 3: 15 a.m. About an hour later, Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, were stabbed repeatedly about 200 yards from the front door. One man died at the scene, the other at a hospital.
In the courtroom yesterday, the judge ruled that there was probable cause to keep Lewis jailed at least until a preliminary hearing can be held Feb. 24.
Outside the courtroom, his attorney, Max Richardson Jr., proclaimed Lewis innocent, though apparently acknowledging that his client was at the scene of the killings.
"I think it's a situation where he was in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Richardson of Decatur, an Atlanta suburb. "From the information I've gathered from law enforcement officers, they know Ray Lewis didn't kill these unfortunate victims."
Richardson said Lewis was arrested because police were unable to locate the two other suspects.
The driver's account
Tony Toskov, the owner of All Stretched Out Limousine Service in Baltimore, said one of his drivers picked up Lewis at his Owings Mills home, then gathered a few others. They drove to Charlotte, N.C., stayed overnight, and took a couple of more friends with them to Atlanta, Toskov said.
He said the driver, Duanne Fassett, fled the Cobalt in the limousine after a group Lewis was with got into an altercation outside the bar with another group. Someone from the other group began firing at the limousine, Toskov said, hitting a tire and leaving five holes in the car.
"There was the stabbing and then the shots rang out," Toskov said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said a police officer confirmed that one of the tires had been shot.
"He took off because they were shooting at him," Toskov said. "He didn't care who was in the car or who wasn't inside."
Toskov said he had regained the limousine, which Lewis was still renting for $125 an hour, and was driving it back to Baltimore last night.
Toskov said the driver saw the person who did the stabbing but does not know his name. He said that person was with Lewis' group but was not among those picked up in Baltimore or Charlotte.
Family and lawyers gathered yesterday at the Atlanta City Detention Center west of downtown, where Lewis is being held. Visitors included his grandmother, fiance, uncle and his lawyers.
Tatyana McCall, 23, of Miami and the mother of two of Lewis' children, flew to Atlanta on Thursday but did not attend the Super Bowl party.
"He just wants to say he's innocent and that he wants us to have faith in him," she told The Sun after visiting with Lewis. "He could not have committed such a heinous crime."
David Modell, the Ravens president, said the ordeal has not been easy for anybody and that decisions on the future of the team's All-Pro linebacker will wait.
"We need to let due process take its course and plan accordingly," he said. "I don't have a crystal ball. This is like a roller coaster, and we've got to ride with it."
The Ravens issued a statement yesterday saying that it was too early to draw conclusions based on the charges.
"We have not had the opportunity to speak to Ray Lewis about this matter, and we can only hope that the charges against Ray are false. We recognize that this is a very difficult situation, and we are concerned for everyone involved.
"We respect the investigative and judicial processes that are taking place. We are monitoring all of this as best as we can. This is a very serious matter to the Baltimore Ravens. Two young men died in Atlanta, and we offer our sympathies to their families and friends."
Other legal troubles
Lewis has long been a lover of the night life and is no stranger to the law. At the University of Miami, he twice was investigated by Coral Gables police after allegations of battery. Each incident involved a woman pregnant with his child. Lewis was not arrested or charged in either incident.
The first incident took place Oct. 9, 1994, when McCall accused Lewis of pushing her, striking her in the face and putting his hands around her throat during an argument.
McCall, pregnant with Ray Anthony Lewis III at the time, was Lewis' girlfriend and a student at Miami. She told police she went to Lewis' dorm room to get a necklace and two videotapes, then became involved in an argument when he said he didn't have the second tape. The incident was classified as a misdemeanor simple battery.
McCall declined to press charges.
The second investigation took place after a Sept. 12, 1995, incident in which ex-girlfriend Kimberlie Arnold said Lewis grabbed her shoulder during an argument, shook her and scratched her arm. Arnold, also a student at Miami, went home to Atlanta to recover. According to the Miami Herald, she also complained that police tried to protect Lewis.
After a four-month investigation, the Miami-Dade state's attorney's office concluded that it did not have sufficient evidence to pursue the case.
Lewis has run into legal problems in Maryland, too, but yesterday a Baltimore County prosecutor said he would likely drop assault charges filed against Lewis after an alleged shoving match in a Woodlawn bar Nov. 30.
A Baltimore woman said Lewis struck her in the face with his fist, causing her to fall against the bar.
Deputy State's Attorney Howard Merker said he requested a postponement of a Feb. 9 trial after receiving evidence that Lewis might not have been near the alleged victim at the Windsor Inn Lounge in the 7200 block of Windsor Mill Road.
Merker also noted that the victim, Catrice S. Parker, described Lewis in her complaint as being 5-foot-5 and 160 pounds.
"The description of the alleged defendant immediately raised a question, since Ray Lewis is over 6 foot and weighs about 240," Merker said.
Merker said he also received statements collected by Lewis' lawyer from employees and other witnesses in the bar who said Lewis "wasn't anywhere near the area" during the incident.
Merker said he is now waiting to hear from Parker's civil lawyer, A. Dwight Pettit, whom he has asked to produce statements from anyone who saw Lewis hit Parker.
Pettit said he has collected statements from four witnesses who say they saw Lewis hit Parker. Parker, in court papers, also accused Lewis of assaulting two other women at the bar, but Merker said those women never filed complaints against the football player.
A bartender at the Windsor Inn said Lewis and a number of other Ravens players often showed up to watch "Monday Night Football" on television.
"He was always such a gentleman. I just don't believe all this," said Ange Jordan.
The bar routinely attracts up to 200 people on Monday nights and hires a disc jockey who plays music after the games. Lewis and the other Ravens players always behaved well, Jordan said.
In Atlanta, the Cobalt Lounge has quickly become a hot spot among the dozens of bars in Buckhead. Earlier during Super Bowl week, Michael Jordan stopped in, as did Wayne Gretzky and actor Judd Nelson, according to its owner, Tom Cook.
"We had a wonderful week here, and while some local people want to talk about the bars and people in Baltimore want to talk about Ray Lewis, I don't want to lose sight of the fact that two men lost their lives," he said.
Lewis had gone to the Cobalt Lounge on Wednesday for a fund-raiser, Cook said, and returned Sunday for the game and a party. "He had an entourage with him," the owner said. "It seems like all of the players have people with them. None of them travel alone."
He said six uniformed Atlanta police officers supplemented a security staff of about 15 people, using cameras and a sophisticated communications system.
Cook said there was no indication that Lewis or anybody with him was involved in an altercation. He said he could not confirm whether the two victims had been at the club.
A good neighbor
Residents near Lewis' Worthington Valley home described him as a nice guy and a good neighbor since he moved last spring into the upscale community, which has been home to sports figures such as Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina and catcher Charles Johnson.
Lewis did throw a loud party last summer for his birthday, neighbors said, but nothing that was out of the ordinary. His mother and a couple of sisters are believed to be living in the house with him, but most of the friends visiting him are Ravens teammates, neighbors said.
"He's one of the nicest guys you can meet," said Henry Trutsi, 21, an avid football fan who has lived in the community for about four years. I just walked by his house one day and introduced myself to him.
"He invited me to his house a couple times after that and got me a couple tickets to his games," Trutsi said.
Said neighbor David Kaiser, who has lived in the community for five years: "He's the kind of guy who would invite friends to the pool out back behind his house and he'd come around asking if they were making too much noise. The people who lived there before him had noisier parties, I think.
"We don't see him too often because he's a pretty busy guy," said Kaiser, 50, an insurance consultant. "This is a great shock to everybody. We hope they get to the bottom of it real quick, and we're just hoping maybe Ray wasn't directly involved. He's always seemed like such a nice guy."
Sun staff writers Dan Thanh Dang, Bill Free, Peter Hermann, Joan Jacobson, Ann LoLordo, TaNoah Morgan, Ken Murray, Dennis O'Brien, Mike Preston, Ken Rosenthal, Laura Sullivan and Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.
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