Fuller says gambling charges are untrue

Raven defensive back blames his arrest on rumors

Pro Football

April 23, 2004|By TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Corey Fuller - muscular, scarred veteran of a tough-guy sport - cried Wednesday.

The Ravens defensive back was sitting on a camp chair in his garage, slippered feet planted flat, forearms on his knees. He had bonded out of jail on a felony gambling charge several hours earlier, along with some friends. The questions of how and why had been coming all day.

His tears were silent and reluctant, and he permitted them for just a minute before scrubbing his face dry with both hands.

"It's to the point that I'm ready to bolt this city." he said. "Man, they killed my spirit last night."

Leon County sheriff's detectives raided his southside home late Tuesday, shutting down what they said was a gambling operation in which thousands of dollars changed hands on any given night. Arrest records allege Fuller ran the high-stakes card games for a 10-percent cut of the pot.

Fuller says that it isn't true - and that the arrest is just the result of a series of flimsy rumors that have dogged him since the former Florida State football player joined the NFL.

All along, he's maintained his Tallahassee ties. He has close friends here, some going back to childhood, and he owns several pieces of property.

Cops have been interested in him for years, attracted by street talk that he was involved in drug dealing and other illegal activity. But they"ve never found anything to substantiate those claims.

Until now, according to the Leon County Sheriff's Office.

In January, Fuller exchanged gunfire with a robber who confronted him at his Victoria Street home. Fuller told police then that he was hosting a friendly card game for acquaintances when the gunman showed up.

Sheriff's detectives received 'intelligence' about the gambling operation as they followed up on the shooting, according to court records. The story was that Fuller was running a complex, high- stakes card game called "Georgia Skins." He held the game several nights a week, and sometimes the pot reached as high as $100,000, detectives reported.

The Sheriff's Office began watching Fuller's home and identified the men they thought were the card players. Then, they called in an undercover agent from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The agent wore a wire into the house - and lost $700 playing cards for an hour, while watching $5,000 to $7,000 pass around the table, according to a court document.

The agent reported that "it was evident Fuller was in charge of the gaming' and appeared to collect 10 percent from each winning pot.

He's heard it all before.

The rumors have been circulaing since he turned pro - nine years of innuendoes about drugs and gambling, Fuller said.

His explanation: People just can't understand why he"d stay in Tallahassee when he has the money to get out and stay out. Because they can't understand, they make up stories.

And those stories eventually get around to cops.

"All of a sudden, somebody who's got a record half as long as my body is a good guy." he said. 'He tells them something about Corey Fuller and they believe it."

Fuller won't come right out and say whether he believes some of his old friends may have gotten him into trouble. But sitting in his garage Wednesday, he did wonder whether he's made a mistake in staying.

"If I'm guilty of anything, I'm guilty of not forgetting where I come from." he said. "What makes me too good to hang out with the people I grew up with?'

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