The Sports Blotter
by Matt Taibbi
WILLIE WILL'S PROM NIGHT
This is one of those uplifting stories that shows you that
the American system of criminal justice is not quite so intractable
as is sometimes reported. It can even show leniency toward African-Americans,
provided of course that they show 4.6 speed and are equally
stout against the run and the pass.
BEAST readers may recall the inspirational tale
of Willie Williams, the highly sought-after Florida high school
football player who set some kind of record last year when he allegedly
committed three separate and completely unrelated crimes in the
space of five hours and still managed to hold on to his scholarship
offer from the University of Miami. Williams, a standout linebacker
from Carol City High, was on a recruiting trip to the University
of Florida last year when he decided to let his hair down.
In the space of five hours, he set off a series of fire extinguishers
in the hallway of his hotel in Gainesville, then allegedly grabbed
a woman against her will in another part of the hotel, then
reportedly struck a man in the hotel bar. Gainesville authorities
ended up charging Williams for the fire extinguisher and woman-grabbing
incidents, triggering a parole violation for a 2002 burglary case
in his hometown, one of the 10 previous arrests in his record. Mysteriously,
Williams had until that time somehow managed to conceal his arrest
record from UF, Florida State, Auburn and Miami, the four schools
that were lobbying for his services. Or so the schools say,
anyway. In any case, despite the fact that the fire extinguisher
count alone threatened to put Williams away for five years, none
of the four schools turned their back on Williams after the Gainesville
incidents, and all four left their scholarship offers on the
Williams ended up choosing Miami. In the meantime, authorities in
Broward County confined Williams to house arrest in response
to the parole violations, fitting him with an electronic ankle
bracelet. Williams apparently had difficulty understanding the
house arrest concept, as authorities were repeatedly called in when
he left the house to "talk with friends or take out
the garbage." Despite his repeated failure to comply
with the extremely lenient terms of his parole, Williams
felt emboldened three weeks ago to ask Broward Circuit Judge
Michael Kaplan for permission to attend his high school prom.
Kaplan was down with that. He ruled last week that Williams can indeed
go to his prom, but only if his football coach drives him to
and from the event. Whether or not a black 10-time loser in
Broward County would get the same treatment if he wasn't the next
Ray Lewis or Dan Morgan is the kind of question that could keep
Philosophy faculties busy for decades.
The Broward prosecutors, naturally, were prostrate before the decision,
which made their jurisdiction the instant laughingstock of the
sports radio nation.
"The prom is really the last place we think Mr. Williams needs
to be," Assistant State Attorney Spencer Multack said. "He's
going to have plenty of times in his life to be celebrating.
I think he could forego this one occasion on this one time due to
the nature of the circumstances."
Williams's decision to attend Miami ends what might have been the
most storied recruiting tour in the history of high school football.
Everywhere he went, Williams made news. At Florida State,
Williams told reporters: "Coach Bowden was cool, but Ms. Bowden
was the bomb. I swear, she must be related to Betty Crocker
At Miami: "UM looks like it has a real good business school.
After going on these trips and living like King Tut, I think
business is something I want to get into."
At Auburn, when Williams was made to wait too long for his food at
a restaurant, only to be served bread and spinach dip as
an appetizer: "Man, I ain't no animal," he said. "I
ain't eatin' no freakin' plant."
Pending the results of his Gainesville cases, Williams should play
for the 'Canes next year (unless he is redshirted for legal reasons),
giving the state of Florida a remarkable criminal linebacker tandem:
Williams in Miami, Channing Crowder in Gainesville. Florida State,
meanwhile, has yet to issue an apology to its fans for its
failure to recruit a player with such impeccable legal credentials.
THE SKINS GAME, CONTINUED
Speaking of Florida State, yet another famous CrimiNole is in hot
water again. Baltimore Ravens defensive back Corey Fuller, arrested
on draft weekend for allegedly hosting high-stakes poker
games at his house, has been slapped with an additional weapons
charge in connection with that charge.
The charge, use of a firearm during the commission of a felony, essentially
boils down to Fuller having a gun on the premises while he
ran a high-stakes game of "Georgia Skins" at his
house. When police raided his Tallahassee home in April, they discovered
Fuller running games with pots that sometimes reached $100,000.
Police allege that Fuller, who has been under surveillance by Tallahassee
police dating back to his days as a star corner with the Seminoles,
was charging a 10 percent vig on the games. Fuller denies
all the allegations.
In January of this year, Fuller was reported to have been involved
in a shootout with an "intruder" outside his house in
an incident that at the time was described as a home invasion.
Over 20 shots were fired in that affair, but no one was hurt. Police
now say they are not sure if the incident was related to the card
games. One thing is certain, however; the shooting incident inspired
police to send undercover operatives into Fuller's house to
participate in the games. Arrest affidavits say two different agents
participated in Fuller's "Georgia Skins" games over the
late winter and early spring months.
After the April raid, Fuller was charged with a misdemeanor gambling
chargeóoperating a gambling house. The weapons charge is
far more serious and could land Fuller in jail if convicted.
Fuller now joins running back Jamal Lewis as Ravens who have been
granted full-time leave while they take care of their legal issues.
Lewis has been charged with cocaine trafficking in connection with
a four year-old case, and is expected to get off. Fuller, who enters
the season as the Ravens' third corner, looks to be in a little