Jail time reportedly limited to offseason

Updated: October 6, 2004, 8:28 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ATLANTA -- Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis has agreed to plead guilty in his federal drug conspiracy case, an aide to the presiding judge said Tuesday.

Jamal Lewis

A source familiar with the plea negotiations told The Associated Press that, under the deal being considered, Lewis would plead guilty to using a cell phone in violation of federal law.

However, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, that agreement still is contingent on the results of a face-to-face meeting Lewis will have with prosecutors in Atlanta earlier on Thursday.

Mortensen reports that prosecutors must be satisfied with Lewis' version of events, and what he is willing to admit to in court before they will agree to the plea bargain. If Lewis does plead guilty on Thursday, the NFL is expected to rule shortly thereafter on a suspension for Lewis, expected to be two-to-four games. Lewis plans to appeal any suspension, forcing a later hearing that likely would allow him to play Sunday against the Redskins.

In addition to handing Lewis a suspension if he pleads guilty Thursday, Mortensen reports that NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will reserve the right to hand out further disciplinary action against Lewis pending testimony in Jackson's future trial.

Whatever the charge, Lewis is scheduled to enter his plea Thursday in federal court in Atlanta, said Vicki Hanna, the courtroom deputy for U.S. District Judge Orinda D. Evans.

"A guilty plea on Mr. Lewis," Hanna said. "That's what's scheduled. Correct."

Hanna would not release details about Lewis' plea, including what charge he will admit to.

"There is no plea agreement entered," Hanna said. "The agreement won't be filed until it's entered, which would be Thursday. There is no plea agreement on file."

This past weekend, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that lawyers for Lewis have been negotiating a deal that would allow him to serve jail time in the offseason.

He would serve four months in a minimum-security prison and two months in a halfway house, the source said.

A lawyer for Lewis, Don Samuel, did not immediately return calls Tuesday seeking comment. Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, declined to comment.

Lewis, 25, is charged with helping broker a cocaine deal for co-defendant Angelo Jackson, a childhood friend, during conversations with a government informant in Atlanta during the summer of 2000. Their trial remains on the docket to start Nov. 1, which falls in the middle of the NFL season.

In addition to the cell phone charge, Lewis and Jackson are charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and attempted cocaine possession. The conspiracy charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Both have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Under the deal that has been discussed, Lewis would plead guilty only to the cell phone charge, and no quantity of drug would be specified, thus allowing the short sentence, the source said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.