Athlete Arrests: Ray Lewis (10/24/11)

We’ve started a new series on the GotCup blog called “Athlete Arrests.” We won’t be covering ongoing arrests that happen every day with Cincinnati Bengal players — there’s just too many of those to cover — but we will be reminding readers about important arrests that have made a serious impact on a particular player or team. First up: Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens, who can be watched live tonight on Monday Night Football against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Arrest Date: February 11, 2000; 11-days after the January 31 fight Lewis was allegedly involved in following Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta, Ga.

Charged With: Obstruction of Justice

Sentence: 12 months probation due to pleading guilty and testifying against two co-defendants.

Back story: Lewis, along with two friends — Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting — were charged with murder when a street brawl left two men dead from knife wounds outside an Atlanta nightclub. Lewis originally lied to police saying that he did not know Oakley and Sweeting. Witnesses gave conflicting accounts about what happened in the fight, according to ESPN’s “Sportcentury Biography” on Ray Lewis, including a limo driver who said he saw Lewis strike a guy in the chest. The limo driver later recanted his statement. Lewis eventually took a plea, which dropped the murder and aggravated assault charges against him in exchange for testimony against his companions.

Fallout: NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue fined Lewis $250,000 for “conduct detrimental to the league,” and made this statement: “There are many lessons to be learned as we review this case. If anyone in the NFL needed a reminder that high-profile professional athletes need to be extraordinarily careful in their associations and activities, Ray Lewis experience provides that reminder.” The following year after the incident, Ray Lewis was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXV. Due to being a controversial figure, Disney had Raven’s quarterback Trent Dilfer deliver the signature phrase, “I’m going to Disney World!” after the game. Sweeting and Oakley were acquitted of all charges after a three-week trial and five-hour jury deliberation. Lewis is making $4.5 million this season with an additional $4.7 million in bonuses.

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