J. Lewis sentenced to four months in prison

OWINGS MILLS -- Nearly a year after being indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges, Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis was sentenced Wednesday to four months in a minimum-security prison after pleading guilty to using a cellular phone to facilitate a drug transaction.

Lewis, 25, will also be required to serve two months in an Atlanta halfway house, perform 500 hours of community service following his prison term and pay a $20,000 fine. The Ravens' star is likely to report to the federal prison camp at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., on Feb. 4, the Friday before the Super Bowl.

It's uncertain whether Lewis will miss a portion of training camp, which traditionally begins in late July at McDaniel College in Westminster. If Lewis doesn't receive time off for good behavior or if he's not allowed to spend part of his halfway-house time practicing for the Ravens and then return to a designated residence between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., then he wouldn't be free until Aug. 4.

Under that scenario, Lewis would likely miss nearly a week of practice. The Ravens didn't comment on Lewis' sentencing, an event which stems from an investigation in 2000 months after Lewis was drafted fifth overall out of the University of Tennessee.

Lewis was sentenced in federal court in Atlanta before Chief U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans. When Lewis entered his guilty plea in October, prosecutors agreed to drop drug conspiracy charges and attempted cocaine possession charges that could have triggered a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison.

"I'm truly sorry for what I did," Lewis told the judge, according to the Associated Press.

Lewis professed his innocence last February when he was indicted, saying, "It's extremely important to me that my family, my friends, my fans and the Ravens' organization know that I am innocent."
By October, though, Lewis was issuing a much different statement: "I made a mistake four years ago when I was 20 years old and I'm paying for it."

Evans said that the government didn't have a strong case, noting that the lone witness against Lewis was an informant with an extensive criminal record. Tomeka Richard has used multiple aliases and birthdates, according to court records.

"The government did not have as strong of a case as it would have liked against Mr. Lewis," Evans said during the sentencing hearing. "The government had only one witness to the transaction that Mr. Lewis was charged with. She was potentially quite impeachable. She was an undercover informant and had a very questionable background and could have been impeached at trial.

"What the government got out of it was the certainty of a conviction and what Mr. Lewis got was a lesser sentence. I think if this case would have gone to trial when it was scheduled to go trial, there was a high possibility it would have been difficult for a jury to come to a guilty verdict."

Ed Garland, Lewis' attorney, said that there were no regrets at not going to trial and described the punishment as fair in a courthouse news conference.

"Jamal Lewis has his life and his career back," Garland said. "He will serve his sentence, rehabilitate from his operation and return to play football for the Ravens."

As for whether Lewis should have taken his chances in a trial, Garland said: "We believe we did the right thing. There are no regrets. Faced with the situation again, we wouldn't do anything differently."

Lewis is currently on crutches after recently having surgery on his right ankle. Lewis is being allowed time to have his cast removed before going to prison.

According to the Web site, www.federalprison.com , Maxwell Air Force Base currently has 919 male prisoners. It reportedly has good exercise facilities, and Lewis would be allowed to work out and rehabilitate his injured ankle. However, the Ravens would be unable to directly supervise his rehabilitation.

Tracy Humble, the author of the book "Federal Prison, Where Inmates Stay &Convicts Run: A Survival Guide and Reference," offers advice to incoming inmates in his book.

"Acclimate to your new life of rules, regulations and being told what to do and when to do it, quietly and respectfully," Humble writes. "Check your ego at the door."

It has been a trying period for Lewis, who was suspended for two games without pay by the NFL for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He was also fined an additional two game checks for nearly $761,000 in lost salary.

As part of his plea, Lewis stated "that at no time during these events did [I] possess cocaine, intend to possess cocaine, provide any money for the purchase of cocaine or expect to receive any money from the sale of cocaine."

Steve Sadow, the attorney for Lewis' co-defendant, Angelo "Pero" Jackson, refuted that claim, saying that Lewis was to share in $4,000 in profits from a cocaine deal.

Lewis was accused of helping to broker a cocaine deal for Jackson, a childhood friend, in June of 2000 with the government alleging that the conspiracy involved at least five kilograms of cocaine.

No drugs were ever ultimately bought or sold, and Lewis signed a six-year, $35.3 million contract in July of that year.

Jackson pleaded guilty to attempting to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and was sentenced Wednesday to 37 months in prison.

NOTE: Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister will not play in the Pro Bowl next month because of a foot injury and will be replaced by Miami Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain.

As well as a being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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