White detective pressured associates to implicate black cop
In March 2005, following a nine-month administrative investigation and suspension, Greensboro police Officer Julius “Jay” Fulmore received a first-level reprimand from Sgt. Tom Fox, commanding officer of the special intelligence section. The discipline stemmed from a 2002 traffic stop of a prostitute named Brenda Weidman. The facts, Fox noted, were that Weidman and Fulmore became involved as informant and contact officer, and that Fulmore did not complete any informant contact cards or inform his supervisor about his dealings with Weidman.
Ordinarily, such an event would seem unremarkable, little more than an embarrassing lapse buried in a police officer’s personnel file.
Several things would set Fulmore’s case apart, and thrust him unwillingly into the center of a racially colored battle for hearts and minds in Greensboro. For starters, Detective Scott Sanders and two other white officers had made an aggressive attempt to connect Fulmore, who is black, to a hotel episode of drugs and sex with Weidman. Most galling for Fulmore’s detractors on and off the force, the special intelligence unit would be disbanded following the abrupt resignation of Chief David Wray, and Sanders and Fox would both be indicted on charges related to interfering with investigations by black officers.
While Fulmore was suspended, Sanders and vice-narcotics detective Brian Bissett had turned their case files over to Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann, who concluded there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Fulmore, Cpl. N. Davis of the Professional Standards Division wrote in a report to Wray. The report was signed by Davis, Assistant Chief Craig Hartley and, ultimately, Wray himself.
Black police officers would come to describe Sanders and his white cohorts as “the secret police.”
“Since the development of the secret police, prostitutes and strippers have telephoned black employees of the police department trying to lure them into illicit and illegal conduct,” reads a letter from July 2005 that was addressed to then-District Attorney Stuart Albright and signed “THE CONCERNED.” “The secret police have sought out criminals who have known African-American police officers casually, provided them with a story to relate to the police officer and recorded conversation to see what kind of information would be divulged.”
The author of the letter is not identified, and it remains unclear whether Albright, who is now a superior court judge in Guilford County, ever received it.
The letter is among extensive documents produced by Fulmore last fall in response to a discovery motion by writer Jerry Bledsoe and The Rhinoceros Times, who are codefendants in a libel lawsuit. Information from the discovery materials later surfaced in accounts published in The Rhinoceros Times and The Troublemaker blog maintained by Winston-Salem resident Ben Holder. Amiel Rossabi, who is Fulmore’s lawyer, complained that those stories were written “out of context and incompletely.”
The trouble for Fulmore started on June 3, 2004 when vice-narcotics Detective LT Marshall noted the officer’s name on the registry at the Red Carpet Inn for the previous night. Hotel staff informed Marshall that they suspected prostitution activity next door in Room 310, which had been occupied by Weidman, and in two other rooms, according to Davis.
Marshall contacted Sanders and Bissett, and the three searched Room 311, the one registered to Fulmore. Among the evidence gathered was a beer bottle, a used condom, two open condom packages, cigarette butts, a test tube with a white residue that tested positive for cocaine, a metal rod and a torn cigarette box.
The internal affairs report notes that “no crime scene investigator was called and no photographs were taken at the scene.”
Weidman, who had been out when Marshall made his sweep, reportedly returned before noon. First she denied having been at the hotel the previous night, but then reportedly changed her story “after being confronted with the information that Detective Fulmore rented a room next to her room and she was seen going in and out of both rooms.” She reportedly told the detectives that she had called Fulmore the night before at about 11 p.m. and that she had joined him at Room 311. She reportedly continued that Fulmore had produced a bag of seven grams of cocaine and asked her to cook it. The report indicates that Weidman told the detectives that she smoked a small amount to confirm it was good, and that Fulmore had given her $100 worth of cooked cocaine and placed the rest of it in a plastic bag before the two had sex.
After Weidman identified Fulmore in a photographic lineup, she agreed to take a polygraph. The examination reportedly had to be restarted three times because Weidman kept falling asleep. Weidman’s credibility was also undermined by the fact that Fulmore had been at the hotel that night with a female friend, who readily admitted to investigators that the two had had sex. Fulmore told investigators that he had rented the room for an employee at his automotive shop and who had recently become homeless. The employee had used the room after Fulmore and his friend concluded their tryst. Police reports indicate that all three cooperated with investigators and provided consistent accounts.
Fulmore’s two associates reported being threatened with criminal charges and public exposure by Sanders and the other two detectives if they didn’t cooperate in implicating Fulmore.
The young woman was 19 or 20 at the time she met Fulmore. She wore her hair in long braids and a Department of Motor Vehicle photo shows her displaying a radiant smile. Police records show that she had been the reported victim of domestic violence at both the hands of her boyfriend and her stepfather, including an incident when she was 13 when police found her with blood on her face after her stepfather reportedly punched her. When police showed up at the family’s home on McConnell Road to investigate the assault, they found two babies, 5 and 22 months old, attended by the girl’s 8-year-old brother. The girl, then 13, told police that she cared for her younger siblings after her 27-year-old mother left in the evening to work overnight at a retirement home. Police records showed that the girl sometimes responded to stress at home by running away to her grandmother’s house.
By all accounts, the young woman’s relationship with Fulmore proceeded from a foundation of kindness.
“They met one day when she and her little girl were walking near her residence,” reads a narrative base on an August 2004 internal affairs interview with the woman. “The basis of their relationship is a friendship in which they would talk about every two months. Detective Fulmore would help her get personal problems sorted out. She advised he has never promised her or any of her friends any legal assistance. She has never met Detective Fulmore while he was on duty that she was aware of, and she has never been inside his city vehicle. Ms. Davis stated that she has never seen Detective Fulmore with drugs or known him to do or have any drugs. She also stated she has never used drugs mainly because of a diabetic medical condition.”
Cpl. N. Davis and Cpl. RL Walton of internal affairs had come in behind Detective Scott Sanders and Detective Brian Bissett, whose intelligence activities were intended to gather evidence to support possible criminal charges. Internal affairs is charged with conducting administrative investigations in matters that do not meet the threshold of criminal conduct.
Fulmore’s friend told internal affairs investigators that shortly after the tryst, three white police officers had come to her apartment on Overland Heights, and she reported being subjected to threats and harassment. There is some discrepancy in accounts of the timing of the three white officers’ visit: An unsigned intelligence file indicates that they first interviewed the woman at her apartment on June 7, five days after the hotel incident, but she later told internal affairs investigators that they came to talk to her the day after the tryst.
“[The police officers] advised her Detective Fulmore was in big trouble because drug residue and paraphernalia was found in the hotel room,” the narrative reads. “She informed the officers she never saw any drugs in the room and she did not think there was any way there could have been. She stated they told her if she lied to them they were going to take her down with him, and everyone would find out. She stated they also informed her they would charge her with obstruct and delay and “put her name out there.'”
While trying to substantiate allegations of a sexual liaison between Fulmore and Weidman, the investigators appeared to be also trying to determine whether his relationship with the female friend might meet the definition of prostitution.
“The officers inquired if Detective Fulmore had ever given her any money, and she replied he would give her twenty dollars here and there to help out with things like her medical condition,” the narrative reads. “Ms. Davis advised a few days later, the officers came to her mother’s residence and told her she had to take a lie detector test.” The officers reportedly told the woman’s mother that “someone had been cooking drugs” in the hotel room, and the woman reported that several weeks later her boyfriend returned home angry “because the officers went to his home inquiring about Detective Fulmore.”
Fulmore told Walton and Davis in a September 2004 administrative interview that he went to the Red Carpet Inn to secure a room for his employee after he learned that he had no place to stay. On the way to the hotel, the female friend called and he picked her up near the apartment at Overland Heights. After checking in, Fulmore and his friend went in the room and watched television. They would later give matching accounts: Fulmore drank a Natural Light beer and smoked a cigarette and the friend drank a diet soda before the two had sex. They left the hotel at about 7:30 p.m.
Fulmore said he went back to his shop to work on a car, and he later met his homeless employee at around midnight at a Hardees restaurant on Randleman Road to give him the key. Still later the employee called Fulmore at home to say he was having trouble getting into the room. Fulmore spoke to the night clerk and gave his assurance that the employee had permission to stay in Room 311.
“The truth of that episode is exactly what Jay said,” said Rossabi, Fulmore’s lawyer. “Whatever Bledsoe says about the event and whatever pejorative framework he places on it, the evidence supports Jay’s recounting of the events, not Bledsoe’s story.”
Similar to Fulmore’s female friend, his employee told internal affairs investigators that three white police officers came to talk to him a day or so after the night at the hotel, but intelligence file indicates that the interview took place on June 7. In both cases, intelligence files identify the three officers as Sanders, Bissett and Marshall.
The employee later told Cpl. Davis of internal affairs that the three officers asked “if and how he knew Detective J. Fulmore and where he was sleeping.”
“He stated the officers informed him after he left the room, they searched it and found drugs,” the narrative reads. The employee “advised they told him if he confessed to what was found in the room, he would do thirty years because he had been convicted before. He stated the officers were trying to get him to say the drugs belonged to Detective Fulmore. He advised he told them anything in the room was his and he took full responsibility for it.”
The employee told Davis “there were no drugs in the room. He advised there was no one in the room when he got there, and Detective Fulmore never came back to the room while he was there.” The employee said he didn’t smoke in the room, but admitted to leaving the cigarette pack and tube that were later recovered by the investigators in the room. An unsigned intelligence file quotes the employee as telling Sanders and the other two white officers: “If I had crack, I would have smoked it.” As Sanders escalated pressure, the employee reportedly said, “If you want to put it on me, I’ll take it. Not Jay.”
A polygraph examination administered to the employee, as with Fulmore’s female friend, came back with the finding that no deception was indicated.
The employee’s interview with internal affairs also sheds some light on why Brenda Weidman might have been perceived as going in and out of Room 311 – information repeated by Sanders and the white officers that prompted the prostitute-informant’s false confession. Sanders had initially reported that a hotel maid said she saw a white female leave Room 310 and go into Room 311, but when Cpl. Davis of internal affairs followed up months later the maid “could not clearly articulate what she saw” outside of rooms 310 and 311. Fulmore’s employee told Cpl. Davis that when he got to the hotel he initially had trouble finding the right room, and a white female tried to help him get into a room.
A DNA analysis of the condom recovered from Room 311 lends support to Fulmore’s assertion that he did not have sex with Weidman that night. The analysis, which compared the condom to DNA swabs from both Fulmore and Weidman, found that Fulmore could not be excluded as the contributor to the DNA obtained from the inside of the condom, but eliminated Weiman as the source of DNA collected from the outside of it.
One segment of the administrative report filed by Cpl. Davis on the Fulmore investigation leaves some troubling loose ends. In a previous report, YES! Weekly speculated that a page removed from the Davis report might have been written by Sanders. Davis, the true author, wrote that deception was indicated in Fulmore’s response to a question about whether he had sex with Weidman during a polygraph administered by Winston-Salem police Detective JF Rogers. The report also notes, “Detective Rogers stated from an overall evaluation of the examination, his certified opinion revealed deception was indicated.”
Rossabi said he expects a lawyer to testify in the libel case filed against Bledsoe and The Rhinoceros Times that Fulmore was informed that he passed the polygraph. He added that he believes the detective did not properly administer the examination.
“Jerry Bledsoe’s “Cops In Black and White’ is not a piece of investigative journalism,” Rossabi said. “Instead it is a concerted and calculated effort to mis-portray, misrepresent and create events in order to fulfill his immoral and improper goals.”
To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.