Ravens' Fuller arrested on gambling charges

Big-money cards played at Fla. home, police say

April 22, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

A tumultuous offseason grew worse for Ravens cornerback Corey Fuller, who was arrested Tuesday night and charged with operating a gambling house, a Leon County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said.

Fuller, 32, is accused of running high-stakes card games in which pots frequently reached into the thousands of dollars. Florida law allows an individual to gamble up to $10 per hand. Fuller was released on $5,000 bail after an interview with the sheriff's office later that night, Lt. Linda Butler said.

No court date has been set. Butler said operating a gambling house is a third-degree felony and carries a possible five-year prison sentence and $5,000 fine.

In January, Fuller and an intruder exchanged gunfire outside his home in Tallahassee, Fla. Twenty shots were fired, though no one was hurt in the incident.

Around that same time, investigators began looking into public complaints about excessive noise at Fuller's house. Butler said authorities gathered intelligence for two months, then involved an undercover Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent over the next two months.

Eleven people were at Fuller's home at the time of the raid, and eight were arrested, Butler said. Warrants were issued for five others. Fuller is the only athlete among those charged. Most of the people are middle-aged and all but one is from Tallahassee.

Fuller did not resist arrest.

"He was at the scene and taken to the office," Butler said. "He wasn't pleased we were there, but he did not resist to where he was charged."

The lawyer for Fuller, Ben Crump, claims there was no gambling at the time of the raid, which involved about 20 Leon County sheriff's deputies, Tallahassee police and Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents.

Crump said many of the guests were playing video games.

"They never saw [Fuller] gambling," Crump said. "They allege thousands of dollars; however, the guy that had the most money had just $300. Corey had $8,000 in his safe that they confiscated."

Crump said he believes the state attorney's office will reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, if not dismiss it altogether.

"There is nothing to suggest he was running a gambling house," Crump said. "They have an alleged confident informant that told them. That seems to be the only thing they have. There is nothing else to substantiate that."

Butler said the card-playing -- primarily featuring a game called "Georgia Skins" that requires six to eight players -- took place several times a week, but Crump denies that.

"This has to do with frequency," Crump said. "You have to establish a pattern of frequency. This was nothing more than guys getting together having a poker game."

Fuller, a nine-year veteran, started 10 games last year in his first season with the Ravens. A Tallahassee native, Fuller was a standout cornerback at Rickards High School and Florida State University.

Under contract for two more seasons with the Ravens and scheduled to make $1 million this year, Fuller is expected to be the Ravens' nickel (fifth) defensive back.

"We'll wait and see what the actual facts are," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "You have to take anything like this seriously -- but we'll wait and see what the facts bear out before we overreact to what this could or could not be."

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement: "We're aware of the situation and have spoken with Corey. He did tell us that he plays card games at his home with friends and relatives. There is a due process, and we believe in that."

This is not the first time Fuller has dealt with the law in his hometown.

From 1990 to 1998, he was charged in seven driving incidents and judged in six of them. Five charges came from driving over the speed limit; two came from driving a vehicle with unsafe equipment and failure to yield at a four-way stop.

In addition, Florida's Department of Labor filed tax liens totaling $1,008 on his company, Corey Fuller Enterprises Inc., in 1999.

It has been a rough few months for the Ravens, whose star running back, Jamal Lewis, was indicted in Atlanta on federal drug conspiracy charges nearly two months ago. Lewis is accused of trying to help a childhood friend purchase as much as 50 kilograms of cocaine.

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs is scheduled to go to court next month in Arizona after he was charged with two counts of aggravated assault.

Suggs is accused of assaulting a man with a reinforcement rod and attacking another man in the parking lot of Phoenix Municipal Stadium after a three-on-three basketball tournament in March 2003.

Sun staff writer Christian Ewell contributed to this article.

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