HARRY R. WEBER
Associated Press

ATLANTA - One side has a team of celebrity lawyers who have defended sports stars and high-profile murder suspects. The other has two government prosecutors who specialize in drug cases.

Observers expect a dogfight as Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis and his childhood friend, Angelo Jackson, prepare for trial on federal drug conspiracy charges.

"It's going to be a lot more about the facts than the number of years in the courtroom," said Kent Alexander, a former U.S. Attorney in Atlanta.

Lewis, 24, is accused of helping broker a cocaine deal for Jackson during conversations with a government informant during the summer of 2000. Both Lewis and Jackson have pleaded not guilty.

Lewis' defense team includes Ed Garland, who represented Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis on murder charges and is one of the lawyers for Atlanta Thrashers forward Dany Heatley, who was involved in a car crash that killed a teammate. Heatley has not been charged.

Another lawyer representing Jamal Lewis is Jerome Froelich, who defended Fred Tokars against charges of money laundering, racketeering and arranging his wife's murder in 1992. Steve Sadow, who defended former Gold Club owner Steve Kaplan in a federal racketeering case, is a lawyer for Lewis co-defendant Jackson.

"That's an all-star team," said Alexander. "They're all very good."

On the government's side are prosecutors Mike Brown and Stephanie Elaine Gabay-Smith. Brown has handled numerous drug cases while working in the Atlanta office the last several years after transferring from the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami. Gabay-Smith is a member of the Southeast Drug Task Force.

Sadow, on vacation in Greece on Thursday, described Brown as a "highly competent, thorough trial attorney." He is "aggressive yet congenial in front of a jury," Sadow said.

Gabay-Smith is an aggressive prosecutor who has played on the U.S. Attorney's office basketball team, said Alexander, her former boss and the person who hired her. She used to work as a prosecutor in New York City, he said.

"If she's half as competitive in the courtroom as she is on the basketball court, the government will be well-served" in the Lewis case, Alexander said. "She's got a lot of years of experience."

Lawyers in the Lewis case continue to seek documents from each other. No trial date has been set.

Froelich said Thursday there have been no discussions in the Lewis camp about a plea deal.

"I'm preparing for trial," he said.

The prosecutors declined through a spokesman to comment.

Lewis and Jackson, who both grew up in the same area of Atlanta, are charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine and using a cell phone in violation of federal law. Jackson, 26, is additionally charged with attempted cocaine possession.

Prosecutors say audiotapes and videotapes of conversations involving Jackson, Lewis and the informant tie the defendants to the conspiracy. Defense lawyers have attacked the informant's credibility, noting that she has used several aliases and has numerous convictions in several states.