Over the decades, there have been plenty of controversies regarding professional athletes. In many cases, athletes even faced serious criminal charges. Just think about the allegations of rape against the late Kobe Bryant. O.J. Simpson is another obvious example of a former star who, despite being acquitted of murder charges, still bears the mark of controversy today.
The same holds true for the Hall of Fame former Baltimore Raven linebacker Ray Lewis. Back in 2000, Lewis faced murder charges over the stabbing deaths of two men in Atlanta. Although he was ultimately found not guilty, the case remains a murky one in many people’s eyes. Here we go back over the facts of that case, its outcome, and why many people still believe Lewis was more involved than he says.
Murder at Super Bowl XXXIV
The murders in question occurred on January 31, 2000, in the wake of a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta. Although Lewis did not play in that game, he had come to Atlanta to join in the post-championship revelries. Lewis was accompanied by two friends, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting. In the early morning hours, a large fight broke out outside of a nightclub.
Two men– 24-year-old Richard Lollar and 21-year-old Jacinth Baker — both suffered fatal stab wounds during the course of the altercation. Baker was stabbed both in the liver and in the heart. Lollar was stabbed five times: twice in the heart, twice in the abdomen, and once in the chest. Both men perished before even reaching a hospital.
A knife that was found at the scene contained no fingerprints or DNA. Some of Baker’s blood was found on the seat of Lewis’s limousine, however. Furthermore, Lewis’s limo driver told police that he had heard Oakley and Sweeting boasting about having stabbed the men.
Three days after the incident, Lewis and his two companions were arrested and formally indicted on aggravated assault and murder charges.
The ensuing trial
Ray Lewis spent two weeks in jail at the start of the trial. At that point, his lawyers negotiated a plea deal with the District Attorney handling the prosecution. The deal stipulated that all murder charges against Lewis would be dismissed.
In exchange, Lewis had to plead guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge. Specifically, Lewis admitted to having lied to the police when he initially claimed he was not at the scene of the crime.
In addition, Lewis was sentenced to 12 months’ probation. He also agreed to offer testimony against Oakley and Sweeting. One of the details that soon came out was that, the day before the stabbing, Lewis and his two friends had gone shopping at a Sports Authority store. There, both Sweeting and Oakley had purchased folding knives.
In the end, however, both Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted of murder charges. There simply was not enough clear evidence about their involvement, especially since well over a dozen people had been involved in the brawl. Several years later, Lewis reached out-of-court settlements with the families of both stabbing victims.
Lingering doubts about Ray Lewis and the case
In the eyes of the law, justice was served in the case and Lewis and his friends were officially declared innocent of murder. Yet the incident has continued to sully Lewis’s reputation.
Many people even feel that the true facts of the case were never fully explained. One detail, in particular, comes up time and time again: the suit Lewis was wearing at the time of the murder.
Simply put, the suit went suspiciously missing shortly after the night in question. Presumably Lewis destroyed the suit, perhaps at the behest of his lawyers. Those who have followed the case closely often point to that fact as probable evidence that Lewis was involved to a much greater extent. As Greg Wilson, the uncle of one of the stabbing victims, put it:
“Why would that or anything else they had on them end up missing that night unless it was something that linked them to the murder?”
As it stands, that question will likely never receive a full and convincing answer.