An Oct. 3 Sports article incorrectly credited the Baltimore Sun for first reporting the plea bargain agreement reached by attorneys for Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis, who was indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges in February. The agreement was first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Published 10/6/04)-----An Oct. 6 correction mistakenly credited the Atlanta Journal-Constitution with being the first to report that attorneys for Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis had reached a plea agreement in his drug case and that a judge had approved the deal. The Baltimore Sun first broke that story. (Published 10/12/04)
-- The attorneys for Jamal Lewis and federal prosecutors have reached a tentative plea bargain agreement under which the Baltimore Ravens running back will be able to avoid standing trial or serving a prison sentence during the season, according to a source familiar with the agreement.
Under terms of the agreement, which needs to be approved by U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans, Lewis would plead guilty to the charge of using a telephone to facilitate a drug transaction and will receive a sentence of four to six months, to be served in a minimum-security prison and a halfway house after the NFL season. Evans is expected to rule on the agreement this week.
Lewis was indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges in February, and his trial was set to begin on Nov. 1, between the eighth and ninth weeks of the season. He and a childhood friend, Angelo Jackson, were charged with conspiring to possess, with the intent to distribute, five kilograms of cocaine and using a cell phone in the commission of that act. An additional charge of attempting to possess cocaine was added in August.
A conviction on the principal charge would have resulted in a mandatory sentence of at least 10 years.
Lewis's Atlanta-based attorneys, Ed Garland and Don Samuel, declined to comment on the case.
The plea bargain agreement was first reported in Saturday's Baltimore Sun.
Although Lewis, who had the second-highest rushing total in league history last year, will not miss any games this season because of trial or jail time, he could face punishment from the NFL.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment on the plea bargain or on any potential disciplinary action that Lewis might face from the league.
A drug-related violation of law is considered to be a violation of the league's drug policy and is grounds for disciplinary action, according to Aiello. There are a number of factors that are considered when determining punishment, including the particulars of the case and the player's history. Ultimately, the final decision rests with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
The charges against Lewis, 25, stem from an incident that took place in the summer of 2000, after he was drafted by the Ravens but before he began his NFL career. Lewis has violated the league's drug policy on at least two occasions; he was suspended without pay for four games during the 2001 season (a season he missed with a knee injury). A third violation of the league's drug policy usually results in a four-game suspension without pay, and a fourth violation results in a one-year suspension.
There is no timetable for when the NFL will make a decision on what course to take against Lewis. He could be subject to a suspension and fines, both of which could be implemented this season. Baltimore Coach Brian Billick wouldn't speculate on whether Lewis would be suspended this season.
"The NFL will decide what they will do with that, what the rules permit, and everybody will react accordingly," Billick said.
Billick didn't confirm the existence of a plea bargain, but he indicated that talk of a plea bargain brought some relief to the Ravens, who are 2-1.
"As we move along, the more we can bring specific definition to it, the better it is, both for him personally and this team," Billick said.
The charges against Lewis haven't seemed to affect his performance on the field. He rushed for 186 yards last week against Cincinnati, and leads the Ravens with 305 yards and three touchdowns on 62 carries.
Lewis participated in practice on Saturday morning and said afterward that he wasn't aware of a plea bargain agreement.
"My lawyers will call me to let me know what's going on, if something is going on," Lewis said. "So if they didn't call me, there's nothing I can give you feedback on."
Meantime, Lewis and the Ravens are preparing to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday, Baltimore's first "Monday Night Football" appearance in two years. Lewis seemed relaxed after practice as he spoke with reporters in front of his locker.
"We've got 'Monday Night Football,' prime time, national stage," Lewis said.
"This is what I do, this is what I like to do, this is my career. That pretty much says it all."