Deal: Lewis' sentence to be served in offseason

Updated: October 8, 2004, 11:13 AM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis pleaded guilty Thursday to using a cell phone to try to set up a drug deal and will be sentenced to four months in prison, to be served after the regular season ends in January.

Lewis could still be suspended this season by the NFL, which said Thursday it would have no immediate decision on any punishment.

Team sources told The (Baltimore) Sun that Lewis is expected to be suspended for two games by the NFL on Friday. The league's punishment will sideline Lewis for the Oct. 24 game against Buffalo and the Oct. 31 game at Philadelphia, the team sources, which were not identified, said Thursday night.

"I made a mistake four years ago, when I was 20 years old, that I am paying heavily for," Lewis said outside the courthouse after his plea. "It's a difficult time for me. My family and friends were hurt more."

Sentencing was set for Jan. 26. The Super Bowl is Feb. 6.

Lewis, 25, pleaded guilty to a crime he committed more than four years ago. Under the plea agreement, which includes an additional two months in a halfway house and 500 hours of community service, drug conspiracy and attempted cocaine possession charges will be dropped.

Lewis could have faced at least 10 years in prison if convicted of the conspiracy charge, but as a first-time offender he probably would have received a shorter sentence under federal guidelines. His trial had been scheduled to start Nov. 1.

"We will review the court documents from today's proceedings and announce a decision on league discipline as soon as possible, perhaps as early as" Friday, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Even if Lewis is suspended by the league, he has five days to appeal, so he'll probably play Sunday night against Washington.

Lewis was accused of 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. Charges against Jackson are pending.

The FBI said an informant contacted Lewis on his cell phone on June 23, 2000, to discuss selling cocaine to Lewis and Jackson. The FBI said Lewis and Jackson later met the informant at an Atlanta restaurant. Both conversations were taped.

Jackson and the informant met several times more over the next several weeks, but Lewis was not part of any of those conversations, court papers say.

"Jamal did not -- and did not attempt to -- buy, sell or possess drugs. He had no financial stake in any drug transaction," Ravens president Dick Cass said. "We will continue to support and believe in him. He has admitted his mistake and is prepared to move on. We are prepared to move on with him."

According to Lewis' plea deal, he agreed to testify at Jackson's trial if called as a witness.

Acting U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said after the hearing that she is satisfied with the terms of the plea and she hopes Lewis' time in community service speaking to young people about the dangers of drugs "will prevent others from making the same mistake."

Lewis ran for 2,066 yards last season, the second-highest total in NFL history.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press