Posts Tagged ‘Ray Lewis’

Ray Lewis’ former co-defendant Reginald Oakley on argument that led to 2 murders in 2000

February 2, 2013

Ray Lewis Reginald OakleyAs Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis prepares to play in Super Bowl XLVII Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, questions continue to arise about his legacy and his connection to a double murder that took place 13 years ago in Atlanta.

One of Lewis’ co-defendants in the double murder trial, Reginald Oakley, said in an interview with Examiner.com Thursday that Lewis didn’t testify about everything he knew about the fatal fight, and tried to shift suspicion onto Oakley after the killings. Still, Oakley says his only problem with Lewis is that the future Hall of Famer blamed Oakley for instigating the fight.

On January 31, 2000, Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker were stabbed to death during a fight in the early morning hours after Super Bowl XXXIV. The killings occurred after an argument between at least one person from the victims’ group of friends and at least one member of Lewis’ entourage.

Lewis and friends Oakley and Joseph Sweeting were indicted on murder charges 11 days after the killings. Later, after multiple witnesses changed their testimony from what they originally told police, the prosecution made a deal with Lewis, dropping the murder charges against him in exchange for testifying against Oakley and Sweeting. However, both men were acquitted after Lewis’ testimony.

Only Lewis was convicted of anything – obstruction of justice – for initially lying to authorities and withholding information. Lewis was placed on a year of probation by the court and fined $250,000 by the NFL. He later paid settlements to family members of both Lollar and Baker.

Lollar and Baker had moved from Akron, Ohio to Atlanta to look for a better life. Several of their friends from Ohio were leaving the Cobalt Lounge around the same time Lewis and his friends walked out of the club.

According to a CNN transcript of court testimony, Lewis admitted telling his friends and the limousine driver to “Keep your mouth shut” as the limo drove away from the scene of the crime. Lewis was concerned about the incident impacting his football career.

Lewis gave a false statement to police, denying knowing the people in his limousine, which sped away after the fight. Lewis also withheld information that some of the people in his limousine were involved in the brawl.

Lewis, who was named MVP of the Super Bowl one year after the killings, became an NFL icon during his 17-year career. The future Hall of Famer is surely the most famous defensive player in the league. He is celebrated by players, fans and media for his football ability and unabashedly emotional personality.

Though Lewis is portrayed and perceived as a mythic hero figure by many, others believe his career is tarnished for his role in what happened 13 years ago.

To read the rest of my article on Examiner.com, including an exclusive interview with Lewis’ former co-defendant Reginald Oakley, click here. The article goes into different versions of what happened to start the fight, the brutal melee, and what happened after the limousine sped away: http://www.examiner.com/article/ray-lewis-former-co-defendant-speaks-on-argument-that-led-to-2-murders-2000

Once again, sorry for including Ravens information on my Redskins blog. It won’t happen again!

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Is Ray Lewis’ legacy tarnished because of his role in covering up murders 13 years ago?

February 2, 2013

Ray Lewis Reginald OakleyWhen Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis walks off the field after Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans Feb. 3, he will leave a legacy as one of the greatest players of all time.

Off the field, however, questions remain about the 13-time Pro Bowl selection, Super Bowl XXXV MVP, and future Hall of Famer despite numerous charitable works and a reputation for being an inspiration to his team.

Two Murders, No Convictions

In the early morning hours of Jan. 31, 2000 after Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta, two men, Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker, died of stab wounds after a fight with members of Lewis’ entourage outside a nightclub. Lewis and two friends, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were charged with murder.

Lewis later agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for the prosecution dropping murder charges against him. As part of the deal, Lewis testified against Oakley and Sweeting, who were subsequently acquitted of murder charges.

Lewis and a group of friends had been celebrating at a nightclub in Atlanta after the Super Bowl between the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans.

In interviews during the past week with Examiner.com, three people with close ties to the case gave varying accounts of Lewis, the incident, and its aftermath.

Lewis’ lawyer during the trial, Ed Garland, says Lewis was 100 percent innocent of any criminal acts relating to the deaths, should have never been charged, and has handled himself impeccably since the trial.

Oakley, 44, who was charged and acquitted in the murders, says he’s ok with Lewis except for the fact that Lewis testified that Oakley started the melee. Oakley said the fight started after an argument between Lewis and someone from the other group.

And Priscilla Lollar, the mother of Richard Lollar, who lost his life that night, says Lewis is responsible for the death of her son.

Lewis could not be reached for comment for this article.

Lewis lied to police the morning after the murders. He denied knowing the people in his limousine, which sped away after the fight. Lewis also withheld information that some of people in his limousine were involved in the brawl. Lewis also told friends to “Keep your mouth shut” about the incident.

Investigators and prosecutors bungled the case, failing to interview all the witnesses after the incident, while multiple witnesses changed their stories from what they initially told police to what they ultimately testified about on the stand. No one was convicted in the murders.

One of those witnesses whose story changed at least once from the time he was interviewed by investigators to the time he testified in court was limousine driver Duane Fassett. Click here to view a brief video of his testimony.

After the trial, Lewis, who was in the middle of a four-year, $26 million contract, was placed on probation for a year and fined $250,000 by the NFL. Lewis went from facing a possible life sentence in prison to being named MVP of Super Bowl XXXV a year later when the Ravens defeated the New York Giants, 34-7.

Lewis would later pay settlements to Baker’s grandmother and Lollar’s fiancée.

Ray Lewis: Hero or Something Else?

Since the trial, Lewis has become a model citizen. The Ray Lewis Family Foundation provides assistance to disadvantaged youth and families. Baltimore renamed the street on which Lewis annually gives turkeys away on Thanksgiving “Ray Lewis Way.”

Lewis also has a keen eye for the camera and has craftily promoted his image while becoming the most marketable defensive player in the NFL. He is a TV commercial icon, with endorsements for EA Sports, Procter & Gamble, Under Armour, and Visa among others. His number 52 jersey is a top seller. Lewis also commands a high sum for motivational speeches.

During the national anthem prior to the AFC title game, Lewis stared forward intensely. When Lewis was shown on TV again, he could be seen emotionally mouthing the words, “Thank you father,” over and over and looking up toward the sky.

Lewis’ inspirational, charismatic and passionate personality has helped make him into a perceived hero who is universally praised and has rarely been criticized by members of the TV, radio, print and web media over the past decade.

Broadcasters, NFL players, and many fans heap admiration upon Lewis as both a player and a person. The NFL’s website features articles that speak glowingly of the Ravens’ star, and a search of his name on NFL.com resulted in at least 16 articles written in the past week about Lewis just on that website.

Lewis reportedly negotiated with multiple TV networks to provide commentary on the NFL after his retirement. ESPN has offered Lewis a contract to work on its NFL programming beginning this summer, according to Sports Illustrated.

Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he may rely on Lewis for advice when his playing days are over after Lewis’ career, which ends after the Super Bowl.

Lewis has become one of the faces of the NFL. It has been a remarkable transformation for someone who was once charged with murder and admitted to lying to authorities the morning after the incident.

To read the rest of my article on Examiner.com, (http://www.examiner.com/article/ray-lewis-legacy-questions-remain-from-murder-trial-for-baltimore-ravens-star) including interviews with Priscilla Lollar, Reginald Oakley, and Ed Garland, please click here.

P.S. Sorry for including a Ravens article on this Redskins blog!

Free Mike Vick

July 29, 2009

I think Michael Vick deserves a chance to play the entire season.  I also hope it’s with the Washington Redskins, and I think there’s a pretty good chance of that.

Let Vick Play

First, what Vick did to those dogs was obviously terrible.  I like dogs, and they like me.  But Vick paid a huge price, spending two years in prison, missing two full NFL seasons, and losing all of his money.  The whole idea that the NFL is suspending Vick on top of the jail sentence doesn’t make sense to me.  The NFL suspended Vick two years ago, so he has already been suspended for two full seasons.

The NFL has left the door open for Vick to come back right away, with its ambiguous ruling, but Vick may also have to wait until week 6 to play.  The NFL wants Vick to miss the opening week of the season so the story doesn’t dominate the headlines.  They also are concerned with reaction from extreme animal groups as well as a society that seems to place more value on the lives of animals than people.  Other players did worse and got lesser punishments.

  • Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis pleaded guilty to a charge of obstruction of justice in a murder trial in 2000.  Lewis was originally accused of having a role in the deaths of two people but he never received even a fraction of the vilification that Vick did.  In fact, he became a hero.  Lewis was not suspended by the NFL but was fined $250,000.  The next season, Lewis led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory.  Lewis has consistently been one of the most praised players in the NFL since the incident.
  • St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little was suspended for only 8 games by the NFL after he was convicted of manslaughter in 1998, killing a woman while driving drunk.  Vick has already missed four times as many games as Little.  (Little spent 90 days in jail).  In 2004, Little was arrested again on charges of driving drunk.
  • Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth is on indefinite suspension from the NFL after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in April after killing a man while driving drunk.  Stallworth only spent one month in jail and will likely be reinstated to the NFL after this season.

Vick is a Quarterback

One of the problems with 24-hour sports talk, ESPN, and the sports blogosphere is that people don’t do much thinking for themselves.  They just repeat back what everybody else says (It’s the same with news).  I’d say 90% of the so-called NFL experts have said over the last two years that when Vick comes back, he will come back not as a quarterback, but as a wide receiver, kick returner, or situational quarterback.  The thinking goes that Vick wasn’t that good of a quarterback in the first place, and two years away from the game would not enable him to recover and play the complex position of quarterback.

Here’s why all those people are wrong.  Vick may have been one of the fastest players in the league during his first few years, but after 6 years of playing QB in the NFL, the wear and tear on Vick probably left his speed at merely faster than average for an NFL wide receiver.  Now after two years of inactivity, he may be just middle of the road as far as speed for NFL receivers.  Plus, he has never played receiver.  If you have Vick at wildcat QB, ok, then he can throw the ball, run with it, catch it, or be a decoy.  But he’s too talented to just play 10 plays a game long-term.

As I’ve said before in my other blog (www.mikefrandsen.org – click “Quarterbacks”), people don’t place a high enough value on quarterbacks who win.  It’s why quarterbacks like Vick (38-28-1 record as a starter) and Vince Young (18-11) get underrated, while quarterbacks like Jay Cutler (17-20) get overrated – because people care more about stats than wins.  Gee, I wonder what else it could be? The way the talking heads talk about Vick and Young makes you wonder if they have an axe to grind – as if they actually dislike them.

Vick’s 71-52 touchdown to interception ratio isn’t that bad despite the fact that he never had good wide receivers, and his WRs dropped a lot of passes his final two years.  Vick also led the Falcons to a 27-7 victory over Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field in 2003, at a time when the Packers had never lost a home playoff game.  The media constantly harps on Vick’s low completion percentage, (53.8%) as evidence that he is a bad QB, but you could take every player’s worst stat out of context if you ignore his good stats.  Who would you rather have, Vick, or a one-dimensional immobile QB with a high completion percentage?  They talk about Vick’s low passer rating, but quarterback ratings don’t take into consideration how well QBs avoid sacks and how many yards they gain on the ground.

Also, it’s not as if the Falcons from 2001 to 2006 were known for having great defense, or great anything, really.  What could Vick have accomplished on a good team?  Vick has 3859 career rushing yards and averaged 7.3 yards a carry.  In 2006, Vick rushed for over 1000 yards and had 8.4 yards a carry, an NFL record!  Great rushing quarterbacks have succeeded — look at Steve Young and Steve McNair.  The dimension that Vick has of running with the ball scares a defense a lot more than overrated quarterbacks who throw tons of interceptions.  Vick has never thrown more than 13 interceptions in a season.  Again, that’s not spectacular, but it’s not as bad as the so-called experts would have you believe.

The fact is that Vick is better than just about all of the backup quarterbacks in the NFL, and better than a lot of starters.  Maybe not this minute, but after he’s spent the month of August and the early part of the season practicing with a team he will be.  At the absolute worst, in my opinion, these are the only quarterbacks who are better than Vick (I put them in order of where I believe they rank).  And within a year, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Vick ends up starting somewhere and moves up to Tier 4, and maybe even up to Tier 3 after a couple of years if he gets into the right situation.  So that means that right now, or by the early part of the season, Vick would be better than nearly a third of the starting quarterbacks in the league.

Tier 1

Peyton Manning

Tom Brady

Tier 2

Drew Brees

Kurt Warner

Donovan McNabb

Ben Roethlisberger

Carson Palmer

Eli Manning

Philip Rivers

Tier 3

Aaron Rodgers

Tony Romo

Matt Ryan

Jay Cutler

Matt Hasselbeck

Chad Pennington

Kerry Collins

Tier 4

Jake Delhomme

Matt Schaub

Matt Cassel

Marc Bulger

Joe Flacco

Vick to the Redskins?

I believe that the Redskins should sign Vick.  They are the perfect team for him.  The team is already established and will have a huge fan base no matter what.  The higher than usual minority population will support Vick more than in other cities, and Vick is also somewhat local, as he is from southern Virginia.

Dan Snyder will get a lot of criticism if he signs Vick, but Snyder should not let that bother him.  People will talk about Snyder’s past signings of “fantasy” players, but those decisions are a sunk cost.  You can’t ignore Vick’s upside.

The Redskins have an established starter in Jason Campbell, but he still hasn’t proven that he is here to stay.  This is Campbell’s fifth season, so he will need to produce.  He has only been on average teams and has had several coaching changes in terms of offensive systems, but the time has come to be more consistent.  He has poise and a strong arm, but we’re still waiting for him to live up to his first round draft selection.

The Skins have two relatively weak backups.  Todd Collins is 37 and has started 3 games in the last 11 seasons.  Colt Brennan is a second year QB and former 6th round draft choice who played great in the preseason last year, but is unproven.   I actually think he has great potential, but it’s still too early to tell for sure.  The other QB on the Skins roster is Chase Daniel, a winner out of Missouri but a rookie who went undrafted.

Ironically, even though Vick is a huge name, the expectations are low for him – a lot of people are assuming he won’t play QB or if he will then he will only be a backup or a situational player.  Take away the off the field problems Vick had and there is no way the Redskins can afford not to sign Vick.  The upside that Vick has compared with the Redskins backups is much greater.  Expect the Redskins to sign Vick and for him to possibly play occasional series once the middle of the season gets here.

Again, obviously what Vick did with dogfighting was terrible, but he paid his debt to society and deserves a second chance.  That chance may be with the Washington Redskins.

***

Update August 8 – It appears unlikely that the Skins will sign Vick.  The league probably wants him to go to a small market like Green Bay, Kansas City, or St. Louis.  That way, the animal protest groups will have a harder time getting out there, whereas in DC they would have an easier time protesting.  Secondly, I have a feeling Snyder may be sensitive to the criticism of him signing big name players.  But those signings – and some worked out okay – are a sunk cost and Snyder or any other owner would be wise to consider someone like Vick who is likely better than their backup QBs and may eventually challenge for the starting job.  I think Minnesota makes sense.