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Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Paul Howard prompted former defendant Ray Lewis Tuesday to dissolve the “blood trail” he earlier promised would lead to Lewis’ hotel room and implicate him as a murderer. Following Monday’s plea bargain with Lewis, Howard wanted the Baltimore Ravens linebacker, now his star witness, to lead jurors instead to Lewis’ former co-defendants. Lewis’ surprise plea Monday to the misdemeanor charge of obstructing a police officer secured his freedom and saved his professional football career. In return, Lewis’ agreement to testify against his co-defendants should have given Howard the star witness this murder trial has lacked. Here’s what Howard gained from Lewis’ testimony: � Howard can now link two knives purchased at a metro Atlanta Sports Authority the day before the Buckhead homicides directly to co-defendants Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley. � Howard can now put a knife in Sweeting’s fist at a Buckhead hotel minutes after the Buckhead street brawl that ended with the fatal stabbings of Richard L. Lollar and Jacinth “Shorty” Baker. Lewis said Sweeting flashed the knife as he gripped it between his knuckles and said, “Every time they hit me, I hit them.” � And Howard can now link Oakley to the fight because Lewis testified that he saw Oakley and Baker exchange blows. But if Lewis’ testimony helped Howard bolster a thin case against Oakley and Sweeting, it also helped the accused men make a case for self-defense. Lewis’ testimony doesn’t suggest either Oakley or Sweeting were calculating or casual killers. Rather, Lewis’ testimony indicated Oakley and Sweeting were merely defending themselves in a sudden, violent brawl against aggressors armed with a gun who refused to let a brief, street quarrel die. DIDN’T SEE STABBINGS And Lewis says he saw neither Sweeting nor Oakley stab anyone during the fight. Oakley, he said, may have exchanged obscenities with the two men who were killed. But it was Baker, not Oakley, who first caused a verbal quarrel to escalate into physical violence by cracking Oakley in the head with a champagne bottle, according to Lewis. Sweeting went to Oakley’s rescue, Lewis testified, and was attacked by two who grabbed Sweeting, pulled his plaid shirt over his head and dragged him behind a tree as they pummeled him. And Lewis placed a third man — Carlos Stafford, who has not been charged in connection with the slayings — in the middle of the fight between Oakley and Baker. Lewis, with prompting from Howard, also provided reasonable explanations for blood on his hotel room pillow. Lewis said the blood came from a medical condition that makes him bleed easily from old injuries. “I’ve had the condition since high school,” Lewis said. “I got blood on the pillows from my head.” Lewis said he wasn’t injured in the street fight. LEWIS: NEVER THREW PUNCH Answering Howard’s questions with a staccato “no,” Lewis said he never struck anyone. He didn’t restrain anyone on the street and he never drew his fist back to land a blow, he said. Lewis said Oakley was the only angry man in his entourage, and even Oakley didn’t throw the first punch. Oakley was provoked by taunts from a crowd of young men that included victims Richard L. Lollar and Jacinth “Shorty” Baker, Lewis said. Lewis said he heard “loud talking” behind him as he and his entourage strolled down East Paces Ferry Road to his limousine. He turned and spotted Oakley with Sweeting and Kwame King, another Lewis pal, in a dispute with two men he didn’t know. “Reginald was the aggressor at that time,” Lewis said. “He was really hostile at the other two guys.” Oakley, Lewis recalled, “was blurting out certain things using hand gestures.” “I ran back up there … and grabbed Reginald Oakley by the waist,” Lewis said. “I started pushing him toward the limousine.” And as Lewis did, he said he chastised his friend, saying “What are you doing? We don’t have time to be arguing with someone.” GOT EVERYONE INTO LIMO Lewis said he succeeded in ushering his group, including Oakley, into the limousine and was about to join them when the two men who had confronted Oakley on the street — now joined by four or five others — approached the limo again. Lewis said he called to the men, “We straight. We cool.” But Oakley, he said, slipped back out of the vehicle and into the street. “When he walked up to the guy, that’s when the guy hit him with a champagne bottle,” Lewis recalled. “I saw him hit over the head. Once he was hit over the head, in all honesty, all hell broke loose. At that point, it was chaos.” The brawl lasted less than a minute. It ended, Lewis said, because “I was yelling, ‘Let’s go. Let’s go.’ I ran back to my limo. I’m gone.” At that point, the football player recalled, “Everybody started running back to the limo.” As the limo drove away, shots were fired. “Everybody just hit the floor,” he said. “The first time everybody came up was when we reached the Holiday Inn.” It was there that Lewis said he warned his companions, “Shut the [expletive] up. Y’all are tripping. This ain’t going to come back on anybody but me. You can walk right now. It’s my limo.” Once inside the Holiday Inn, while the chauffeur changed a tire flattened by a bullet, Lewis asked Sweeting what happened. Gripping a knife he had purchased the previous day at the Sports Authority, Sweeting answered, “Every time they hit me, I hit them,” Lewis recalled. Once Lewis returned to the Georgian Terrace where he was staying, he asked Oakley the same question. “I was just beating him,” Oakley told him. It was then, Lewis said, that he warned his friends, “Y’all need to cut this [expletive] out. This is going to end my career because of y’all tripping. I tried to end this fight three or four times. This is all going to come back on me.” ACKNOWLEDGES LYING TO POLICE Lewis acknowledged that he lied in a statement he made to Atlanta police the next day. Looking down at his hands, Lewis said he didn’t think of it as lying when he failed to disclose to police the names of the people he knew who were in the limousine with him. “If I knew … I never would have done it,” he said. “That’s why I’m in the situation I’m in now.” On cross from Sweeting’s lawyer Steven H. Sadow, Lewis said that interview with Atlanta homicide Lt. Michael Smith was an uneasy one. Lewis acknowledged when Sadow questioned him later. “I felt like I never felt before,” he said. “Accused?” said Sadow.” “Yes.” “Falsely accused?” he followed. “Yes.”

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