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Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis could face a second trial in Atlanta, this time in a civil suit that seeks to hold him responsible for the deaths of two men stabbed in a street brawl after the 2000 Super Bowl. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta by the grandmother of one of the victims, names as defendants Lewis, Joseph L. Sweeting, Reginald Oakley, Kwame King and Carlos D. Stafford Jr. In exchange for the state dropping two murder counts against him, Lewis pleaded guilty during his June 2000 trial to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a police officer. Co-defendants Sweeting and Oakley were acquitted of murder charges in Atlanta just days after Lewis’ plea. King and Stafford never were charged in connection with the 4 a.m. fight Jan. 31, 2000, during which Jacinth Baker and Richard D. Lollar were stabbed to death. All four men named as defendants with Lewis in the suit partied with him at Atlanta’s Cobalt nightclub after the Super Bowl and fled with him in his limousine following the confrontation. The civil suit was filed by Baker’s grandmother, Gladys Robinson, who is the executor of her grandson’s will. Attorney Richard H. Middleton Jr., a partner at Suggs, Kelly & Middleton in Savannah, Ga., is representing Robinson. Middleton was in trial in Atlanta and could not be reached for comment. Robinson v. Lewis, No. 1:02-cv-270 (N.D. Ga. Jan. 30, 2002). It is the second civil suit filed against Lewis seeking monetary damages for the deaths of Baker and Lollar. Last year, a suit was filed against Lewis and the same four co-defendants on behalf of Lollar’s baby daughter, India Riche Smith. Smith’s mother, Kellye Smith, was pregnant with the child when Lollar was killed. Thomas S. Carlock, of Atlanta-based Carlock, Copeland, Semler & Stair, says the Lollar suit was removed from Fulton County, Ga., State Court to U.S. District Court last August. Smith v. Lewis, No. 1:01-cv-2197 (N.D. Ga. Aug. 15, 2001). Both cases have been assigned to U.S. Senior District Judge Marvin H. Shoob of the Northern District of Georgia. “The cases against him [Lewis] have no merit,” Carlock says. And, he says, there is “no evidence” that Lewis committed any of the actions alleged in either suit. “It just didn’t happen. Ray is sort of a gentle giant. … There is no evidence Ray did anything other than be there and be the deepest pocket.” HOW THESE SUITS WORK The two suits mirror other civil suits that, over the last decade, have been filed by victims’ families against wealthy suspects after they have been acquitted of murder. The most famous such suit was filed by the families of murder victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman against O.J. Simpson after Simpson was acquitted of killing his former wife and Goldman on Oct. 2, 1995. In 1997, a civil jury in California found that Simpson had caused the wrongful deaths of Nicole Simpson and Goldman and awarded $33.5 million to the victims’ families. Such suits have a lower threshold for determining liability than a criminal trial has for determining guilt. A defendant may be found civilly liable if a preponderance of the evidence suggests that he committed a wrongful act. A criminal defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, a criminal defendant may not be compelled to answer questions that might incriminate him in a crime. But, under Georgia law, if a defendant refuses to be deposed, that refusal may be weighed against him by a jury. Carlock says Lewis has not been deposed yet by defense attorneys about his actions during and after the deadly brawl. The civil wrongful death suits lay out some of the same evidence against Lewis that surfaced during his 2000 murder trial. That evidence includes the purchase of the knives believed to be the murder weapons by his co-defendants, Lewis’ presence at the brawl, his decision to leave the scene with his entourage without calling the police, bloodstains later found in the limousine that included DNA of at least one of the two victims, and Lewis’ decision to mislead homicide detectives when they initially questioned him about the slayings. Within hours of the deaths of Lollar and Baker, police had linked Lewis to the deadly brawl, having detained his limousine driver as he repaired a tire flattened by a gunshot. After police handcuffed him, limousine driver Duane Fassett named Lewis as a participant in the brawl. When Lewis gave Atlanta police a statement riddled with evasions and contradicted his chauffeur’s account of events before and after the stabbings, police charged him with murder. Six months later, midway through his murder trial, Lewis admitted he had initially misled police when he said he didn’t know who had actually been involved in the brawl, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of obstructing a police officer, and agreed to testify against Sweeting and Oakley, who were standing trial for murder with him. During the trial, defense attorneys suggested that King and Stafford might have been the killers who witnesses had mistaken for Oakley and Sweeting. Neither King nor Stafford were ever arrested in connection with the slayings. ‘ADMISSION OF GUILT’ Robinson’s suit claims that Lewis’ misdemeanor obstruction plea “is an admission of guilt.” Lewis’ own testimony under oath during the trial linked his friends to the purchase of two knives at an Atlanta sporting goods store where he appeared at an autograph signing. And he acknowledged that Oakley, Sweeting, Stafford and King were participants in the early-morning street brawl that killed Baker and Lollar. Lewis testified that neither Oakley nor Sweeting stabbed anyone during the fight. He claimed a verbal altercation became violent when Baker slammed Oakley in the head with an empty champagne bottle. Lewis testified that he never hit or attempted to hit anyone. He said that, instead, he attempted to be a peacemaker when the two groups of young men began trading heated words. He said that only his yells to his friends that he was leaving the scene prompted them to run back to the limousine, and that as they pulled away, someone fired shots at them from the street. The civil suit presents a somewhat different version. It claims the verbal quarrel outside was a continuation of one that had occurred inside Cobalt. During that quarrel, the suit claims that Lewis — knowing that his companions were intoxicated and armed with knives — “exchanged words” with Baker, who was with a group of his own friends who were visiting from Ohio. Lewis then began removing his jewelry and walked toward Baker and Baker’s friends “in a menacing manner,” the suit claims. In doing that, according to the suit, Lewis caused his friends to leave the limousine and rush to the football player’s aid, prompting the resulting brawl that ended with the deaths of Baker and Lollar. Lewis’ “express words and actions set into motion a command, direction, justification and authorization to his co-defendants to attack Jacinth Baker and his companions,” the suit states. Then, after the stabbings, the suit claims, Lewis directed his entourage to flee in his limousine without calling the police, leaving Baker and Lollar to die in the street.

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