Ravens' Fuller acquitted of gambling, gun charges

Six-member jury decides in less than two hours

Pro Football

January 30, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Ravens cornerback Corey Fuller was acquitted yesterday of felony gambling and gun charges after being accused of running high-stakes card games at his house in Tallahassee, Fla.

The six-member jury deliberated less than two hours before rejecting two days of prosecution testimony, nearly all of which failed to prove Fuller gambled or took a percentage of the pot.

"I want to thank God, the person that controls my life," Fuller said. "I said from the word go that I was innocent. This turned out to be a bunch of mess."

The charges carried a possible five-year prison sentence and $5,000 fine.

An undercover agent, the prosecution's strongest witness, testified he saw hundreds of dollars being wagered at Fuller's home but failed to place Fuller at the table. One other witness did say she saw Fuller playing a game called "Georgia Skins," but could not say how much he won or lost and also said she felt pressured by law enforcement when she gave her original statement. Florida state law allows players to gamble up to $10 a hand.

Three other witnesses who were in the house the night of the raid testified that there was not any gambling going on, contradicting earlier statements made to authorities. The prosecution rested its case Friday night, and both sides made closing arguments yesterday.

"My name has always been clear," Fuller said. "People know the things that I do, the community service. I'm not going to get caught up in the emotion of it. They tried to make me into something that I wasn't just because of the place I grew up. If I grow up in low-income housing, most of my friends are going to be there."

Authorities raided Fuller's home in April, having surveyed the residence for months after an attempted robbery and shootout at the place in January. No one was injured.

The event triggered the investigation among the Tallahassee Police Department, Leon County Sheriff's Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcements, which provided the undercover agent.

Investigators found $6,000 in $20 bills at the time of the raid, but a Leon County sheriff's deputy testified that money could have come from the bank.

The prosecution failed to prove Fuller either kept a gambling house, a felony, or gambled illegally, a misdemeanor. The verdict on the felony count automatically cleared him of a related weapons charge. Prosecutors accused Fuller, 33, of carrying a gun during the card games to ensure that he would get the house cut, most of which they claimed was put in a shoe box on the game room floor.

The Ravens have stood by Fuller since the beginning and continued to offer support after hearing of their player's innocence. Nickel back Deion Sanders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks made appearances in the courtroom.

"It's great news for Corey," said Kevin Byrne, Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations. "He stated from the beginning he was innocent. Unfortunately, he had to go through this process to prove it. We know he's a good man."

Fuller has played the past two seasons with the Ravens and is under contract next year.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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