Shackled and dressed in a Rensselaer County Jail jumpsuit, Charles Fuller dabbed his eyes with a tissue as his sister offered a federal court judge the deed to her home to satisfy his $25,000 bail.
The 24-year veteran of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department and union president was granted conditions of release Monday, three days after he was arrested for allegedly helping a woman he knew deliver what he thought to be cocaine from Albany County to Warren County. Fuller, 46, who also works part-time with the Ballston Spa Police, is facing a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison if convicted of aiding and abetting cocaine distribution.
Earlier in Monday’s detention hearing, federal prosecutors argued Fuller is both a danger to the community and a flight risk. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Hanlon said FBI investigators meticulously collected conversations and exchanges Fuller had with the woman — a confidential source — over the course of about a month and have detailed accounts of how he was paid thousands of dollars to help her transport cocaine.
“Every single conversation between these two individuals was recorded,” he told U.S. Magistrate Judge Randolph Treece.
During a Feb. 19 run, Fuller was allegedly paid $1,000 to help the woman transport 250 grams of cocaine. Fuller kept a pistol under his leg as he drove his 2008 Infinity up the Northway, Hanlon said.
Fuller also allegedly agreed to accompany the woman on a second run involving a full kilogram of cocaine eight days later for the sum of $4,000. Hanlon said Fuller kept a small pistol in his vehicle as he drove the woman and watched her remove what he thought was cocaine from a bag.
“Given his position, he was willing to engage in this conduct,” Hanlon said. “That, I think, makes him a danger to the community.”
Defense attorney Stephen Coffey told Treece he couldn’t discuss the prosecution’s allegations in detail without violating his client’s Fifth Amendment rights. He did, however, indicate federal prosecutors had pressured the woman into making the trips with Fuller, something he said could cause “significant issues” in the case.
Coffey also disputed that Fuller was any flight risk, since he is a lifetime resident of Saratoga County with a clean record outside of an arrest when he was 17. He also stressed that Fuller never offered the woman anything other than a ride and was never present when she secured what was later learned to be imitation cocaine.
“At the end of these rides, the confidential source left the vehicle,” he said. “No claim has been made here that at any time Mr. Fuller was present during any drug transaction.”
The U.S. Marshal Service was awaiting surety to release Fuller on conditions following his hearing. If released, he was ordered to refrain from using alcohol and to have no contact — directly or otherwise — with the informant; he was also asked to turn all of his firearms over to local authorities. He was being held at Rensselaer County Jail.
Fuller was paid $67,000 as a full-time deputy for the county in 2013 and about $5,000 for his part-time work with the Ballston Spa police.
Sheriff Michael Zurlo said Fuller has been suspended without pay pending the results of his criminal case but doesn’t believe any of his other deputies are under investigation by federal authorities. He was unsure whether Fuller’s union, the 100-plus member Saratoga County Sheriff’s Police Benevolent Association, has changed its leadership since his arrest.
“We’ll follow this case closely as it goes through the court system,” he said.