- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2000

ATLANTA A judge granted Ray Lewis a $1 million bond yesterday, saying the Baltimore Ravens linebacker could stay at his home in Maryland while awaiting trial on murder charges.

Defense attorney Max Richardson said he would try to get Lewis out of jail late last night or this morning.

Various NFL figures, including team owner Art Modell, testified for Lewis at the day-long hearing, calling him “dependable” and a “good citizen.”

The 24-year-old Ravens star and two companions are charged with murder in two stabbing deaths during a brawl at a post-Super Bowl party Jan. 31.

Lewis did not speak at the hearing but shook hands with his lawyers before he left the courtroom.

He has been held without bail since his arrest the day of the slayings. One of his two codefendants turned himself in yesterday; the other is at large.

In Baltimore, fans had mixed reactions.

Marian Richburg, of Bowie, Md., said he was shocked by the decision.

“I didn’t think that bail was a consideration under what I’ve heard in the news, but then you can’t believe everything you hear in the news,” Richburg said.

Ronald Boyd, of Baltimore, said he thought the decision was long overdue.

“I think if they were going to give him bail today, they should have given it to him [the day he was arrested],” Boyd said. “And then he could have played in the Pro Bowl. If they didn’t think he was going to run now, why did they think he was going to run back then.”

Superior Court Judge Doris Downs said she found no evidence that Lewis, who had no previous felony convictions, poses a significant threat to flee the charges or to intimidate any witnesses.

The bond requires Lewis to stay in Maryland unless he is traveling to Georgia for events related to the case. She required that $200,000 of the bail be in cash and said Lewis cannot use alcohol or drugs of any kind while he is out. She also said Lewis must be home every night before 9 p.m.

All parties in the case are under a gag order.

Modell testified that Lewis impressed him by spending some of his signing bonus money to buy his mother a house after he was the Ravens’ No. 1 draft pick in 1996.

“He’s a good citizen for the Baltimore Ravens,” Modell said, citing Lewis’ willingness to visit hospitals and do other charity work. “There’s no question in my mind that he would be dependable and live up to his obligations, no matter what it is.”

Both sides emphasized to Downs that they were not interested in arguing Lewis’ guilt or innocence during the bond hearing. But the issue led to several sharp exchanges between prosecutor Clinton Rucker and Lewis’ mother, Sunseria Keith, and great-uncle, the Rev. Clinton Stancil.

Keith said she knew her son didn’t kill anyone “because I gave him life. I raised him.”

Modell drew laughter from the packed courtroom when, pressed by Rucker on whether his team was better with Lewis than without him, said, “We’d be a better team with Johnny Unitas if he were still available.”

“I’m worried about Ray Lewis, the person. I’m not worried about my football team,” Modell said.

Ed Garland, another Lewis attorney, asked Modell whether Lewis would suffer serious financial harm if he were unable to play out the remaining years of the four-year, $26 million contract extension he signed in 1998.

“I hate to even predict that, but he’d lose his job,” Modell said.

Meanwhile, Atlanta police said Joseph Sweeting, 34, of Miami surrendered to authorities Monday morning. The third suspect, Reginald “A.J.” Oakley, 31, of Baltimore, remained at large.

At the hearing, prosecutors stressed that Lewis, who played college football at Miami, was much closer to Sweeting than he admitted to police. They showed a picture of Sweeting with his arm around Lewis to each witness.

Lewis, Sweeting and Oakley were indicted Friday in the deaths of Richard Lollar, 24, and Jacinth Baker, 21, who were stabbed during the fight outside an Atlanta nightclub.

Lewis’ lawyers say he tried to break up the fight, did not see the crime and was at least 60 feet away when Lollar and Baker, both of Decatur, Ga., were stabbed.

Police say Lewis drove away in a limousine and later was uncooperative with investigators, providing misleading statements.

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