Lawyer: Limousine passengers clear Lewis; Their account differs from driver's; police yet to question riders


ATLANTA -- Lawyers representing linebacker Ray Lewis on murder charges said yesterday that they have interviewed all of the occupants of the limousine that sped from the scene and that each clears the Ravens player of wrongdoing.

Donald F. Samuel, one of the attorneys, would not reveal their names. But he said they confirm Lewis' story that he acted as a peacemaker and did not know that anyone had been stabbed until hours after the Jan. 31 incident.

Those statements contradict the account that the driver of Lewis' rented limo gave to Atlanta homicide detectives. A source familiar with the case has said that Duane Fassett of Severn told police he saw Lewis become involved in a fight and throw a punch at the victims, but that Lewis did not stab anyone.

Samuel said defense lawyers have not interviewed Fassett or seen his statement to police. He said aggressive moves on Lewis' part could be attributed to attempts to break up the fight.

Atlanta police, who reportedly based their arrest warrant solely on Fassett's account, said yesterday that they have not located everyone who was in the limousine before or after it took Lewis to the Buckhead entertainment district.

Lewis' lawyers have complained that their client remains the only person charged in the stabbing deaths of Richard Lollar, 24, and Jacinth Baker, 21, outside the Cobalt Lounge.

A police source familiar with the Lewis investigation said detectives are not getting as much cooperation as they would like.

"There is someone with the power to tell us who was there," the source said. "If that information was forthcoming, this would move faster."

Samuel declined to say whether defense lawyers have given police the names of the witnesses. They have said that Lewis told detectives the nicknames of people who might have been directly involved in the stabbings.

Detectives from the Atlanta police homicide unit have been in Maryland for several days to look for witnesses and evidence that could lead to possible suspects. Yesterday, they staged a midnight search of Lewis' house northwest of Baltimore.

Officers, accompanied by Baltimore County police, were seen carting away two boxes and a personal computer and loading them into a van. They searched the Worthington Valley home, which Lewis bought in May for $753,000, until after 2 a.m.

Investigators in Atlanta and in Maryland would not divulge what was found or what detectives were seeking.

Ronald M. Cherry, Lewis' Baltimore lawyer, said he was called to the house early yesterday as officers executed the warrant, signed by a Maryland judge. He said four teens or young adults, including Lewis' two sisters, were at home.

"We don't have any comment to make as to what is going on," said Atlanta homicide Lt. Michael Smith.

Lewis, 24, has been imprisoned for a week without bail. Several family members have flown to Atlanta and say they plan to remain until he is freed.

Police allege that Lewis participated in the "punching, beating and stabbing" of the victims. Detectives said they are searching for other suspects and witnesses in a case that has gained national attention and taken them from Florida to Maryland.

Lewis' team of attorneys contend that the player acted as a peacemaker and had no idea that anyone had been stabbed or killed until hours after the rented Lincoln Navigator limousine raced away from the area as someone opened fire on it.

Fassett, who drove Lewis from his home to Atlanta in the 40-foot stretch limo days before the Super Bowl, has emerged as a key witness.

Accounting for time

Lewis stayed at the Georgian Terrace hotel and partied with big-name athletes in Atlanta for the game. Details of how and with whom Lewis spent his time have been slow to emerge.

Police and defense lawyers are trying to account for the player's time in Atlanta, hoping to locate people who can help in the investigation.

The source familiar with the case said Lewis left the hotel with three male friends and was driven to an Atlanta suburb, where they attended a Super Bowl party given by Atlanta Falcons safety Marty Carter at his home in Marietta.

Carter's agent, Frank Murtha, said Lewis "was one of hundreds of people attending the Super Bowl party." Murtha said Carter was questioned by Atlanta police as part of the Lewis investigation.

Lewis and several friends left the party about 10: 15 p.m. for the Georgian Terrace, the source said.

About 12: 30 a.m., Lewis was driven in the limo, along with the three men and three women, to the Cobalt Lounge, the source said.

Lewis left the lounge between 3: 30 a.m. and 4 a.m. and walked to his limo, accompanied by eight people, his lawyers have said.

Samuel confirmed that Lewis was at the Falcon player's house before going to the club and said Carter did not go to the Cobalt Lounge. Carter could not be reached for comment last night.

Samuel said some of the people who were in the limo when it arrived at the Cobalt Lounge were not with Lewis when he left.

Defense lawyers have said the fight started between members of Lewis' group and the victims, but that Lewis was walking ahead and was not involved in the initial altercation.

During the fight, Samuel said, a member of Lewis' group was hit over the head with a champagne bottle. What happened next is unclear. Lewis, through his lawyers, contends that he was a peacemaker and tried to get everyone into the limo and to safety. The driver sped away as a gunman opened fire.

Evidence and questions

Police have recovered a weapon but have not said whether it was used in the shooting. Officers recovered a knife from the scene and three knives from inside the limo.

Police have identified two people they want to question -- A. J. Johnson of Maryland and Kwame King of Florida -- both of whom detectives have said were possibly in the limo with Lewis.

Johnson has repeatedly denied being in Atlanta on Super Bowl weekend and said Sunday that he has been interviewed by police. King's mother said her son flew to Atlanta to talk to authorities but that she knows nothing more.

Officer John Quigley, an Atlanta police spokesman, said "it would be inappropriate to comment" on any witness statements. "We're not going to say who we have talked to or who we haven't talked to," he said yesterday.

It was unclear whether Atlanta police were searching for anything specific in Lewis' house yesterday. Investigators indicated they might have wanted address books or anything that lists Lewis' friends or acquaintances, in order to determine who might have been with him in Atlanta.

Why the search was conducted at midnight was unclear. Cherry described the search as methodical.

Lewis' house, which he bought last year after signing a a four-year, $26 million contract that makes him the highest paid linebacker in football, is on 2.3 acres in the Foxchase subdivision. The three-story contemporary-style house is about 100 yards from the road, has a basketball hoop in the driveway and a three-car garage.

Police who conduct searches typically leave the judge's order and a list of items they seize with the occupants of the home. Cherry said he forwarded that paperwork to lead defense attorney Edward T. M. Garland in Atlanta.

Sun staff writers Ann LoLordo, Dennis O'Brien and researcher Andrea Wilson contributed to this article.

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