The Sun asks judge to unseal document


ATLANTA - The Sun yesterday asked a federal judge to make public a report in the drug case of Ravens running back Jamal Lewis, who is to be sentenced today in Atlanta.

The Sun and Cox Enterprises, which publishes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, filed a joint motion asking Chief U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans to unseal a pre-sentence report on Lewis. WBAL-TV is contributing to the legal expense.

Pre-sentence reports, prepared by federal probation officers, are typically consulted by judges before they hand out prison terms. The reports often include information about the defendant that goes beyond what is available in the public domain. While such reports are not normally made public, the motion said that a trial court has discretion to release them.

In its motion, The Sun said the public had a right to see the document to help it determine whether Lewis, one of the NFL's top players, was being treated the same as other citizens.

"The circumstances and facts of this case raise specific and particularized concerns as to whether Mr. Lewis' crimes have been prosecuted and punished in a manner consistent with the principles that underlie the criminal justice system," the motion said.

In an interview, Stephanie Abrutyn, The Sun's attorney, called Lewis "a local celebrity" and said his case is being closely watched.

"It is extremely important for the public to understand the basis for the sentence," Abrutyn said. "Without access to the core document used by the judge to determine if the sentence imposed is appropriate, the public is deprived of the ability to judge whether or not this sports star was treated fairly."

Don Samuel, an attorney for Lewis, said in an interview yesterday that pre-sentence reports are prepared as a tool for judges with the expectation that they will remain private, and that they should remain so.

The judge has not set a timetable to rule on the newspapers' motion.

Lewis pleaded guilty on Oct. 7 in Atlanta to using a telephone to facilitate a drug-trafficking crime. He is expected to be sentenced today to four months in prison as part of a deal with federal prosecutors.

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