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Ray Lewis Trial: 2000

Murder And Assault Charges Dropped

On Monday, June 5 the prosecution dropped the murder and assault charges against Lewis, in return for his agreeing to plead guilty to a misdemeanor (obstruction of justice) for making false, incomplete, and misleading statements to police after his arrest, and to testify against his codefendants. Lewis was given one year's probation, during which he was to continue to be employed; ordered to pay one-third of the court costs; and forbidden to use drugs or alcohol during the period of his probation.

In testimony the following day, Lewis told the court that Sweeting had shown him afterwards how he had concealed the knife in his fist and jabbed with it, but that he could not tell whether either Sweeting or Oakley had stabbed anyone. Oakley, he said, had been the aggressor in the fight. He had seen no blood on Sweeting's knife or clothing. The jury acquitted both men on June 12.

District Attorney Howard expressed his disappointment that the evidence given in court by several prosecution witnesses differed from their statements to police. But legal observers noted that Howard may have made strategic errors: by pursuing a quick indictment he had circumvented a preliminary hearing, which might have revealed the prosecution's strategy, but this had enabled the defense to demand a speedy trial, which the prosecution seemed unprepared for. Moreover, Paul Howard had not tried a case in four years and was in the middle of a reelection campaign. The anticipated media attention the trial would receive was seen by many as a factor in Howard's decision to personally lead the prosecution team.

Ray Lewis was fined $250,000 by the National Football League for lying to the police, but resumed his successful career as a football player, helped lead the Ravens to victory in the 2001 Super Bowl, and won the game's Most Valuable Player Award.

David I. Petts

Suggestions for Further Reading

New York Times, Atlanta Constitution (February-June, 2000).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentRay Lewis Trial: 2000 - Victims Stabbed During Brawl, The Case Against Ray Lewis, Prosecution's Murder Case Collapses