- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Atlanta to trying to set up a drug deal.

As part of the plea agreement with prosecutors, Lewis will be sentenced Jan.26 to four months in prison and two months in a halfway house. That’s just 12 days before the Super Bowl that he helped the Ravens win as a rookie in 2000, months after the crime was committed.

“I made a mistake four years ago, when I was 20 years old, that I am paying heavily for,” Lewis said outside the courthouse. “It’s a difficult time for me. My family and friends were hurt more.”

Under the plea agreement, which includes 500 hours of community service, drug conspiracy and attempted cocaine possession charges will be dropped. Lewis could have received 10 years in prison if convicted of the conspiracy charge. His trial was set for Nov.1.

Lewis was accused of helping set up a cocaine deal for childhood friend Angelo Jackson during cell phone conversations with a government informant in the summer of 2000. The FBI said Lewis and Jackson went on to meet the informant at an Atlanta restaurant. Jackson supposedly went on to make the deal with the informant without further assistance from Lewis, who has agreed to testify at Jackson’s trial if called as a witness.

Lewis also faces suspension by the NFL, which his attorneys said he wouldn’t fight although the NFL Players Association might on the grounds that the crime was committed before Lewis signed an NFL contract.

“We will review the court documents from today’s proceedings and announce a decision on league discipline as soon as possible, perhaps as early as Friday,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

It’s believed Lewis will be suspended for two games, likely those against Buffalo on Oct.24 and Philadelphia on Oct.31. Lewis, who missed practice yesterday to attend the hearing, is expected to play Sunday night at Washington. The Ravens are off next week.

“Jamal did not — and did not attempt to — buy, sell or possess drugs,” Ravens president Dick Cass said in a statement. “He had no financial stake in any drug transaction. The Jamal we all know would not have made this mistake today. We will continue to support and believe in him. He has admitted his mistake and is prepared to move on. We are prepared to move on with him. We hope that he will be part of our organization for years to come.”

Coach Brian Billick said Lewis and the Ravens have had the advantage of knowing for a long time this day was coming and could plan for using backups Chester Taylor and Musa Smith if Lewis missed any games.

“Jamal has been through this all last year, all through training camp and all the way up to now,” Billick said. “I don’t know that it’s any more of a distraction now than it has been. Jamal has been very focused.”

Indeed, Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards last season, the second-highest total in NFL history, and is on pace for 1,512 yards this year while averaging 4.9 yards a carry.

“We know Jamal might miss some games,” offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. “Chester and Musa haven’t rushed for 2,000 yards, but they can hold the job down until Jamal gets back. We expect him to come back and be ready to roll.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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