N E W Y O R K, Aug. 18, 2000 -- As far as the NFL is concerned, the case thatbegan with Ray Lewis’ arrest last January on murder charges inAtlanta is finally over. Lewis might have other ideas.
The latest step came Thursday when commissioner Paul Tagliabuelevied a $250,000 fine against Baltimore’s All-Pro middlelinebacker, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge ofobstructing justice after originally being charged with murder.
It is believed to be the highest fine levied against an NFLplayer for an infraction not involving substance abuse.
But while the league hoped the fine — with no suspension — mightclose the story, Lewis had another opinion.
“I am disappointed and I will appeal,” he said in a statementissued by the team.
Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said, “We have supported Ray sincethe beginning of this situation and will continue to support him.”
Reputation at Risk
Tagliabue noted that Lewis’ reputation suffered and that he hadspent a lot of money on legal fees.
But he added: “The unlawful obstruction related to a veryserious occurrence — a double homicide.”
Tagliabue also ruled that Lewis will be fined another $250,000and be subject to suspension if he violates any of the terms of his12-month probation.
Lewis was originally accused with two others of murder in thestabbing deaths of two men following a post-Super Bowl party lastJanuary. He interrupted the trial to plead guilty to themisdemeanor and agreed to testify against his co-defendants.
The two co-defendants were subsequently acquitted.
Tagliabue said in his ruling that he believed everyone was hurtby the perception the episode created.
He said that by not telling police the full story, Lewis“fueled a public perception that he had something to hide.”
“In doing so,” Tagliabue added, “he put his own livelihoodand reputation needlessly at risk and he caused great harm to otherNFL players and to the league.”
Lewis’ arrest was one of several that has tarnished the NFL’sreputation in the last year.
Rae Carruth, a former Carolina Panthers’ wide receiver, has beencharged in the fatal shooting of the mother of his child. He isawaiting trial.
Another former Panther, Fred Lane, was shot to death last springin what the police said was a domestic dispute. No arrests havebeen made.
Tagliabue said all the cases have harmed the NFL and itsplayers.
“When an NFL player engages in and admits to misconduct of thetype to which Mr. Lewis has plead here, the biggest losers arethousands of other NFL players, present, past and future,” he said“Such admitted misconduct clearly contributes to the negativestereotyping of NFL players.”
The league said the only larger fines would have involved caseswhere players were docked four game checks for violating the NFL’ssubstance-abuse policy, but were not suspended. None of players inthose cases have been publicly identified, the NFL said.