ATLANTA - In a day marked by surprises in the courtroom, a witness in the murder trial of Ray Lewis testified yesterday that the football player changed his clothes after a deadly street brawl and that she saw another man dispose of a bag that may have held the garments.
The man who allegedly disposed of the bag - potentially incriminating evidence that has not been found - gained a tentative immunity agreement yesterday that would allow him to testify after the trial resumes Tuesday.
Another witness, Chester Anderson, became the first to testify that he saw Lewis strike one of the victims. But a lawyer for the Ravens linebacker got the state's witness to acknowledge guilt to a federal fraud charge for which he is under indictment.
The defense attorney, in the style of a Hollywood courtroom drama, then had the victim of the fraud -a Texas man flown here for the occasion - stand up amid the spectators for the jury to see.
Anderson regained some of the credibility he had lost in the maneuver when a friend took the stand and corroborated parts of his testimony against Lewis.
Lewis, 25, is being tried on charges of assault and murder in connection with the Jan. 31 incident, along with Reginald Oakley, 31, of Baltimore and Joseph Sweeting, 34, of Miami.
Prosecutors opened their attack yesterday by calling Keiva Walls, a 30-year-old hairstylist from Houston. She had joined Lewis and his group for some parties during the weekend the Super Bowl was played here.
She was with Lewis and his entourage when a street fight broke out at 4 a.m. the day after the game, when Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, were stabbed to death. Walls told jurors that she didn't see anyone get hit and wasn't aware of the deaths until later when she learned of them from news broadcasts. But she provided potentially damaging circumstantial evidence about the suit Lewis had worn.
Walls' cousin, Jessica Robertson, previously obtained immunity from prosecutors in the case and turned over several bags of clothing that she said Lewis had asked her to hold in the hours after the fight as he prepared to leave town to play in the Pro Bowl.
Walls, who was able to recall in detail what everyone was wearing, described Lewis' suit as white with black squares. When shown the suits Robertson had given police, Walls said none matched the one Lewis wore that morning.
She also testified that Lewis changed clothes when the group returned to his hotel room. He then "put his head down and said, 'I'm not trying to end my NFL career like this,'" she said.
Soon afterward, she, another woman and a man, Carlos Stafford, left together, pulling over at a fast-food restaurant. Stafford got out with a grocery bag and walked toward a Dumpster. The group then went to another hotel.
Outside the courtroom, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said that police have never recovered the bag, the suit Lewis was seen wearing or the knives believed used in the killings.
"They made a big deal about turning over the clothing to us," he said of the clothing provided by Robertson and her attorney. Robertson may appear next week.
"Where's the suit?" Howard asked. Donald Samuel, an attorney for Lewis, said he doesn't know what became of the suit Lewis wore that morning, but that anything that happened after the fight is "irrelevant." The testimony about the Dumpster is "pretty shallow evidence," he said.
Lewis contends that he was acting as a peacemaker during the fight and never hit, kicked or stabbed anyone. Another Lewis attorney, Edward T.M. Garland, said, "The issue of what happened to the clothes will come out in the evidence; it will come out in the facts in the case."
Stafford reached a tentative immunity agreement with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony, which could come as early as Tuesday, said his attorney, Dwight Thomas. The deal, which Stafford has sought for weeks to protect him from being charged in the incident, requires a judge's signature.
Thomas declined to reveal what Stafford will tell the jury, but said it will help clear one or more of the defendants and prove "damaging" to others. He said Stafford never hit or stabbed anyone and was not the man some witnesses have described as holding a knife early in the fight.
As for whether Stafford disposed of evidence, Thomas said, "All that will be cleared up. ... A lot of dots will be connected with Carlos' testimony."
Later yesterday, Anderson, a 25-year-old unemployed Kansas City man with a long record of scheming to get "something for nothing" as he put it, said he was celebrating the Super Bowl in the same upscale nightclub district as Lewis on Jan. 31. As the bars closed, Anderson said he and two men were walking down the street when he saw Lewis repeatedly kicking a man later identified as Baker, one of the victims.
Anderson said he knew Lewis because he had seen him play against a childhood friend, former Ravens running back Byron "Bam" Morris. "Ray and them are kicking someone's [butt]," Anderson quoted one of his companions as saying.
Anderson demonstrated with a fabric dummy on the courtroom floor, kicking it in the way he said Lewis did. Anderson said he went over to the bodies and then tried to keep others away until the police arrived, and then left the scene. He recalled in minute detail vehicles in the area and a police officer with a radio that wasn't working - an impressive account that prosecutors hope overcomes problems with his legal troubles.
Garland questioned the man with gusto, presenting him with a copy of a federal indictment handed down in January accusing him of assuming the identity of "Chad Anderson" and fraudulently obtaining loans to buy five cars, a cell phone and insurance. He sold some of the cars.
The witness freely acknowledged the scheme, in which he obtained the Social Security number of Chad Anderson from a phone company employee and used it to obtain credit. Under questioning by Garland, Anderson acknowledged being an "imposter."
"Would you know the truth if you bumped into it?" Garland asked.
At one point, Garland had Chad Anderson stand up. Outside the courtroom, the Arlington, Texas, resident said he started getting calls about unusual purchases last year. Clearing his credit record took many months. "I spent countless hours trying to wipe the slate clean," he said.
He said he was pleased to see Chester Anderson admit to the crime under oath, something that can be used by prosecutors in the fraud trial. Chad Anderson said Lewis' attorneys flew him to Atlanta and put him up for the appearance. But, he said, "I'm not here for Ray Lewis. Who knows what the truth is with these three guys."
Samuel said Anderson's testimony is not believable and contradicts what others say transpired during the fight. "If he's telling the truth, every other witness the state is calling is lying," Samuel said.
Prosecutors contend that Anderson's criminal record doesn't render him unable to honestly recall what he saw Jan. 31. "Obviously he has some baggage," Howard said after court. But Anderson has been consistent in recounting what he saw Lewis do, Howard said. "