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This article was published 30/7/2018 (715 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio this Saturday.
It is tradition on induction day that inductees wear the gold blazer that the hall issues them. But personally, I hope Lewis eschews tradition and instead wears the white suit.
Not since the eulogies for Richard Nixon celebrated him as a man of peace has a man’s reputation been more thoroughly whitewashed than Lewis’s
‘The white suit’ to which I refer was the one Lewis was wearing on the early morning of Jan. 31, 2000 outside the Cobalt Lounge in Atlanta.
Lewis and two friends got into an altercation with two men, Richard Lollar, 24, and Jacinth Baker, 21, on the street outside the club that ended with Lollar and Baker both bleeding to death from stab wounds to the heart.
Lewis and his friends — Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting — fled the scene in a waiting limousine and all three men were later charged with two counts of murder on the strength of eyewitness testimony and a forensic examination of Lewis’s 40-foot black limo that turned up evidence of Baker’s blood inside the car.
And Lewis’ white suit? It mysteriously disappeared the morning of the slaying and was never found. It has remained to this day a matter of much speculation.
All of which is why I think Lewis should dust that number off if he knows where it is and wear it when he gets inducted this weekend into the same hall of fame where another accused double murderer, OJ Simpson, also has a plaque.
(Quick tangent: Name me another hall of fame in which one of out of every 158 members is an accused double murderer. I will wait here.)
If Lewis really has nothing to hide, then he should bring the white suit out of hiding this weekend. It might need a good dry cleaning first, however. I hear a combination of white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide works well to remove dried blood stains.
If you’re going to make a mockery of the criminal justice system while at the same time becoming the new poster boy for how there is one set of rules in our society for star athletes and another one for the rest of us, you might as well wear white and look your very best.
Not since the eulogies for Richard Nixon celebrated him as a man of peace has a man’s reputation been more thoroughly whitewashed than Lewis’s.
The author of an Associated Press story over the weekend essentially wrote a 1,500-word love letter to Lewis that included a pathetic one paragraph aside near the bottom of the story that was as begrudging as it was hilarious:
"Lewis wasn’t perfect. He was arrested and charged with two counts of murder in Atlanta in 2000. Those charges were dropped, and he pleaded to obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor."
Don’t you just hate it when your record of being "perfect" is besmirched by a little thing like a pair of murder charges?
Now, about those "dropped" charges.
As Lewis went on trial for double murder back in 2000, his attorneys cut a sweetheart plea deal with prosecutors in which they agreed to drop the murder charges against Lewis in exchange for a guilty plea to obstruction of justice and Lewis’s testimony against his two accomplices.
My hat is tipped ‐ the career arcs of most people would take a bit of a nosedive after getting charged with double murder. It was barely a speed bump for Lewis
Matlock couldn’t have cut a deal like that, but then Matlock never had a pro football player as a client.
How good was this plea deal? Well, even if you believe that Lewis didn’t actually do the stabbings, it is worth noting that the U.S. has executed people for less. A provision of U.S. law allows in certain circumstances for accomplices who didn’t directly take part in a killing to also be executed — the driver in a convenience store robbery in which a clerk is killed, for instance.
The website for the Death Penalty Information Center lists at least 10 instances in which someone who neither took direct part in a killing nor ordered a contract killing has been executed in the U.S..
But I digress.
At the ensuing trial, Lewis admitted on the stand that as the limo fled the scene, he swore everyone inside to secrecy about what had just happened. He also admitted to lying to police. What he didn't do is directly link his accomplices to the stabbings.
In the end, the jury acquitted both Oakley and Sweeting — if I’m ever charged with anything, please God, let my trial be held before a jury of American dunces.
And so put it all together and history has recorded that Lewis was the only one ever convicted of anything in the deaths of Lollar and Baker.
Lewis was sentenced to a year of probation, the NFL fined him $250,000 and he ultimately paid off the families of both Lollar and Baker in out-of-court civil settlements.
And then with that unpleasantness behind him, Lewis went on to a glorious 17-year career in football that made him wealthier and more famous than even most people who haven’t been charged with double murder.
My hat is tipped — the career arcs of most people would take a bit of a nosedive after getting charged with double murder. It was barely a speed bump for Lewis.
Life after football has been just as sweet for Lewis, who went on to become an analyst for ESPN and Fox. And he also has a big presence on Twitter, which he uses to preach the good word of his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
But just because he loves Jesus doesn’t mean Lewis has actually repented. Asked in 2010 about the killings, he basically said he wouldn’t change a thing about that night. Seriously.
"You ask me if I’d trade anything, and I couldn’t," Lewis said. "I couldn’t because I wouldn’t be the man that I am today.
"The end result is who I am now. And that means if I had to go through all that again to come to the point of who I am right now, why change it?"
Why change it? Just spitballing here — so two guys who were stabbed to death that night could still be alive?
We’ll probably hear Jesus’s name again this weekend when Lewis gives his induction speech. What we won’t hear from Lewis, I’m sure, are the names of Lollar and Baker.
They’re gone and forgotten, which is exactly the way Lewis and the NFL would prefer it remain.
Wouldn’t that be perfect.
Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.
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