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J. Lewis trial may start in August

The drug conspiracy case of Jamal Lewis appears headed to trial around the time - or just before - the Ravens' season opens, says the running back's attorney.

"If you asked me to bet, I'd say this case would be tried sometime in August," attorney Donald Samuel said Friday.

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It would be less-than-ideal timing for Lewis and the Ravens, whose regular season begins Sept. 12. Training camp opens July 30. Last season, Lewis, 24, rushed for 2,066 yards - the second-best total in NFL history - and 14 touchdowns.

Samuel had informally asked prosecutors to agree to a trial delay until early next year, but they declined.

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"We said to the prosecutor, 'Let's wait until the end of the season, so we're not rushed,' " Samuel said. "He said, 'We don't need that much time. We're not going to specially set it in February so he [Lewis] can finish the season.' "

Asked about the possibility of an August trial date, Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based U.S. attorney's office, declined to comment.

Ravens coach Brian Billick said: "We're prepared to deal with whatever circumstances are laid out. We've talked about it organizationally. You'd prefer for it to happen at a certain time frame. [But] we have to respect the process. ... We'll adapt to it."

Except in medical emergencies, judges don't typically consider defendants' personal issues in scheduling trial or hearing dates.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers has played the NBA regular season and playoffs flying back and forth from Colorado to attend court sessions in his sexual assault case.

Samuel said the Lewis trial shouldn't take longer than two weeks. Lewis would be eligible for release on bond pending sentencing "in the extraordinarily unlikely event he is convicted," the attorney said.

Lewis, who was raised in Atlanta, was indicted in February and charged with helping arrange a cocaine deal for a hometown friend. He is also charged with using a cell phone in the commission of a drug crime.

He turned himself in to FBI officials and was released on a $500,000 bond. He has pleaded not guilty, said he wants fans to know he is innocent and will speak briefly with the media today at the start of the Ravens' full-team minicamp.

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A magistrate has been hearing pre-trial motions since the indictment. In February, the trial portion of the case was assigned to Chief Judge Orinda D. Evans, who has been a federal judge for 25 years.

Samuel expects a trial date to be set soon. Two other people familiar with the scheduling process said it was reasonable to expect the trial to begin in the next several months.

The trial is expected to center on an undercover government informant who taped conversations in 2000 that she allegedly had with Lewis and a co-defendant, Angelo Jackson.

According to an affidavit, the informant first contacted Lewis by cell phone and the two allegedly discussed arranging cocaine sales for Jackson during the secretly recorded conversation. The three met later at an Atlanta restaurant where they discussed a price, according to the affidavit.

But Samuel said tapes the defense obtained during the pre-trial discovery phase show Lewis had "zero interest" in a drug deal. The tapes he referred to have not been made public.

"She [the informant] has a conversation with him, and he ends up not doing a drug deal. ... He doesn't ever do a drug deal. He never talks about money," Samuel said.

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Lewis could face a mandatory prison term of at least 10 years if the alleged conspiracy is found to involve at least 5 kilograms of cocaine.

Sun staff writer Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.


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