Witness testifies that Lewis seen brawling, but not with knife

Wednesday, May 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) — A friend of two men stabbed outside an Atlanta nightclub testified Wednesday that Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis ``tussled'' with one of the victims during a street brawl.

Jeff Gwen said he saw two men — Lewis' co-defendant Reginald Oakley and another unidentified man — wielding knives during the fight, although he didn't see Lewis with a weapon. Even if Lewis didn't stab one of the victims, he could be convicted of murder if he was involved in the fight that led to the deaths.

Another prosecution witness testified that he saw an unidentified man holding a knife.

Prosecutors declined to say if they know who that person is. Defense attorneys have said that police have failed to find several people involved in the fight.

Lewis, the leading tackler in the NFL last year, faces murder and other charges along with friends Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting. They could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar of Decatur died of multiple stab wounds on Jan. 31. Lewis, 25, was in town to take part in Super Bowl activities.

Gwen, an Akron, Ohio performer who raps under the name ``Chino Nino,'' admitted that he violated probation on a marijuana conviction by leaving Ohio to promote his record during Super Bowl week.

Gwen said he and his friend Chris Shinholster, another Akron resident, were leaving the Cobalt Lounge after the post-Super Bowl party when a drunk Oakley interrupted their conversation about women in the club. Gwen said the unidentified man and Lewis then grabbed Oakley, apologized for him and tried to put him in a limousine.

Shinholster and Gwen testified that Baker, originally from Akron, and members of Lewis' group exchanged taunts and insults. Then Baker struck Oakley over the head with a champagne bottle, which prompted several people to pour from the limousine and the groups began fighting.

Gwen said he was chased by two men, including one with a knife, and saw Lewis and Lollar grabbing and shoving each other.

Shinholster told jurors that he saw another unidentified man holding a knife. Although he was just steps away from the stabbings, Shinholster said he did not see who actually stabbed the two men.

Shinholster testified he did not see Lewis fighting. But Gwen said Lewis removed his gold chain necklace and then stepped forward to ``tussle'' with Lollar.

Later, Gwen said he returned to where Baker and Lollar had fallen and tried to get Lollar to move.

``I'm like, `Man, get up, we've got to go,''' Gwen said. Lollar, lying on the ground breathing heavily, only blinked his eyes in response. ``He let out this deep breath, and his eyes rolled back up in his head.''

The second day of testimony in Lewis' murder trial ended with an ``extremely concerned'' Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alice Bonner ordering lawyers to a closed-door session in her chambers Thursday morning.

Bonner said she wanted prosecutors to explain why defense lawyers were not told about a correction in a statement given by Gwen, who told an assistant district attorney he was wrong when he initially said Lewis had struck one of the victims. Gwen told police Lewis had ``tussled'' with Lollar, but had not hit him.

Defense lawyers said they were not told about Gwen's amended statement, which prompted Oakley's attorney, David Wolfe, to request a mistrial. Bonner denied that request, but said she wanted ``further inquiry'' about the issue.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard called defense lawyers' assertions a ``non issue'' because they had also interviewed the witness and because prosecutors do not contend that Lewis struck anyone.