Douglass High grad proclaims innocence
By BILL RANKIN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/25/04
Star NFL running back Jamal Lewis was indicted Wednesday afternoon by a federal grand jury in Atlanta on drug conspiracy charges.
Lewis, 24, a graduate of Douglass High School in Atlanta, is accused of conspiring to distribute cocaine from June 23, 2000, until July 19, 2000.
Lewis is innocent of all charges, his attorney said.
"Jamal Lewis denies any involvement in any criminal activity or any activity involving drugs," Atlanta lawyer Ed Garland said Wednesday.
Lewis' co-defendant, Angelo Jackson, was to appear in court for his arraignment. Lewis will surrender to authorities and appear in court at a later date, said Garland.
This past season, Lewis had the second-best single-season rushing total in league history and also set the single-game rushing mark with 295 yards against Cleveland. With his size, speed and power, Lewis is one of the NFL's premier players.
The 23-year-old Baltimore Ravens running back graduated from Douglass in 1997 and played for the University of Tennessee.
Before he arrived on campus in Knoxville, Lewis and a 17-year-old woman were charged with shoplifting from a Macy's store in Cumberland Mall. Store security officers said they observed a clerk slip a $109 polo shirt into Lewis' shopping bag without charging him.
Lewis, then 18, was sentenced to three years of probation, fined $1,000 and granted first-offender status. That sentence allows first-time offenders' criminal records to be wiped clean if they complete their probationary time without incident.
Lewis is the second Baltimore Raven to face serious charges in Atlanta. In 2000, Raven star linebacker Ray Lewis, who is not related to Jamal Lewis, was charged with two other men in the killings of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar in a Buckhead street fight after a night of partying after Super Bowl XXXIV.
During a sensational trial six months later, Ray Lewis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. In exchange for murder charges being dropped and a one-year probation sentence, he testified against his two co-defendants, who later were acquitted of all charges.
Jamal Lewis has turned to Garland and his partner, Don Samuel, the same two lawyers who represented Ray Lewis during the 2000 trial.
Jamal Lewis, after graduating from Douglass High, went on to play at Tennessee. He decided to forgo his senior year and was drafted fifth overall by the Baltimore Ravens.
After gaining a team-record 1,364 yards during the 2000 season as a rookie for the Super Bowl champion Ravens, he tore a knee ligament during practice in August 2001 and was lost for the season. It was the second time in four years Lewis underwent major knee surgery.
During that 2001 season, Lewis was suspended four games after violating the NFL's substance and alcohol-abuse policy. At the time, the league said Lewis would lose four game checks.
Last year was Lewis' best as a pro. He fell just 40 yards short of Eric Dickerson's rushing record of 2,105 yards in 1984. Lewis was voted the Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year.