Former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis, in Baltimore to sign autographs at the National Sports Collectors Convention, said Friday that his arrest earlier this week in Atlanta for child abandonment, a misdemeanor, was caused by a hearing he did not attend.
“It was not about an abandonment issue, it was not about a kid issue,” he said. “It was the fact that, honestly, I didn’t show up for a hearing to defend myself and everything else. But, like I said in my statement, you know, I’ve never been a bad father. I am a great father to all of my children. This is an incident that happened, and it’s being dealt with in the court, and the truth will come out.”
In a Georgia state warrant, Juanita Johnson accuses Lewis, 32, of “failing to furnish sufficient food, clothing, shelter or medical care” to the child for a period of two months. She also said Lewis had no contact with the child in over a year.
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The Ravens’ first-round pick in 2000, Lewis holds the franchise record with 7,801 rushing yards, including a single-season team record of 2,066 yards in 2003 when he was named the Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year. He retired in 2009 after two years with the Cleveland Browns.
Though the Ravens have not yet officially unveiled plans to honor Lewis, his face adorns tickets to the Sept. 27 game against Cleveland and the running back has said he will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor. A Ravens official confirmed Friday that the team still plans to go through with the ceremony.
Lewis’ legal troubles date back to his time as a player. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to using a cell phone to facilitate a cocaine transaction and received a four-month jail sentence.
Earlier this year he filed for bankruptcy, and late last year was one of four former NFL players from the Atlanta area involved in a suit against the NFL. Seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages, the suit accuses the NFL of concealing information about the danger of concussions — and their lasting impact — from players.
On Friday, Lewis said he had no choice but to file for bankruptcy due to failed business dealings. Court records show 15 creditors have made claims against him so far; they have until mid-September to do so.
A powerful runner who five times had more than 298 carries in a single season — only two backs exceeded that number last year — Lewis said post-concussions symptoms still bother him regularly.
He said he is letting his attorneys deal with those cases.
After admitting he had made mistakes, Lewis said: “I'll climb through this like I have everything else. At the end of the day, everything will be taken care of.”