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No Memory Of Accident, TV Star Says

Actor Phill Lewis said he remembers nothing about the fatal car accident in which he was involved early Saturday, or where he was for nearly 10 hours leading up to it, his attorney said yesterday.

“He truly, truly has had a memory loss,” said Rockville lawyer Barry Helfand, who said he spent an hour Sunday questioning Lewis, 23, star of the network television show “Teech” and son of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. executive Delano E. Lewis.

Police said a car driven by Lewis crossed the center line and collided head-on with another car at about 1 a.m. on River Road in Potomac.

The driver of the other car, Isabel Duarte, 21, a Portuguese immigrant who lived in Chevy Chase, was pronounced dead at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

Montgomery County police Officer Larry Jerman, who is investigating the accident, said police believe alcohol contributed to the crash.

He said officers at the scene said Lewis appeared to have been drinking.

Jerman said that a blood test was performed at the hospital but that the results were not back from the state police laboratory in Pikesville. The results could take up to six weeks, he said.

Richard Crane, spokesman for State’s Attorney Andrew L. Sonner, said his office is investigating the accident.

He said it would be at least Thursday before officials decide whether to present the case to a grand jury.

Crane said Lewis could be charged with manslaughter if the investigation shows he was driving while under the influence of alcohol. A conviction could carry up to 10 years in prison, Crane said.

Neither Jerman nor Crane would comment on where Lewis had been earlier Friday evening.

He was traveling home to his parents’ Potomac house from the District when the accident occurred, they said.

At a news conference at his office, Helfand said Lewis remembers nothing after about 3:30 p.m. Friday, when he went “downtown to meet friends.”

“No one in the world will believe him. It’s just too pat and convenient,” Helfand said. “But I’m going to document” the memory loss.

Helfand said the memory loss could have been caused by drinking, by the impact of the crash or by some combination.

Helfand said he believed Lewis had been drinking Friday evening. Because police ordered the blood test, he said, they probably had reason to suspect Lewis had been drinking.

But, the lawyer said, only the blood test will show whether Lewis was legally intoxicated.

Helfand said that Lewis felt “guilty” about the accident and that his family has tried to send a letter of condolence to Duarte’s family.

Lewis’s father, who has been president and chief executive officer of C&P Telephone since 1988, issued this statement yesterday: “My family and I deeply mourn the loss of Miss Duarte, and we pray that her parents and family allow us to pay our respects and express our sincere sympathy in this their time of grief.”

Delano Lewis said his son is in Potomac, recovering from cuts to the mouth suffered in the accident. He declined to comment further.

Duarte moved to the United States about three years ago and lived with her aunt and uncle, Augusto and Maria Rodrigues, in the 2300 block of Ashboro Drive, according to Victor Cuco, the attorney for the dead woman’s family.

He said Duarte worked as a nanny for several area families since her arrival. He said she has many relatives in the Washington area, although her parents still live in Portugal.

On the night of the accident, Duarte was driving home after dropping off some friends, Cuco said. The group had watched videos together at the home of one of the friends, he said.

Maria Rodrigues, Duarte’s aunt, referred all questions to Cuco.

“We really are destroyed,” she said.

Client Reviews
"I have watched Mr. Helfand in trial and in negotiations. He is remarkable. Mr. Helfand is extremely knowledgeable in the law, and even more knowledgeable in the ways to deal with people." Afshin Pishevar, Criminal Defense Attorney in Rockville, MD
"I strongly endorse this lawyer. I have known Mr. Helfand for many years. We have worked together on cases and represented conflicting parties. I have watched Mr. Helfand in trial and in negotiations. He is remarkable." David Felsen, Criminal Defense Attorney in Rockville, MD
"It’s one of the biggest cases that’s been tried in Montgomery County in a long time,” said Steve VanGrack, a Rockville lawyer considering a Democratic bid for state’s attorney." Washington Post