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Exclusive: Browns’ legend Jim Brown reacts to federal charges against Reggie Rucker

CLEVELAND - An NFL Hall of Famer says he is disappointed to hear of the federal charges filed against another former player for the Cleveland Browns.

Reggie Rucker is accused of paying gambling debts, using money from a charitable group, founded by football great Jim Brown.

"Reggie's a very charming person, very intelligent person... And I had no idea that lurking underneath was that gambling sickness," Jim Brown told FoOX 8’s Kevin Freeman by phone.

The legendary Brown said it was difficult to learn that a man he trusted, former Browns wide receiver Rucker, is facing federal charges.

Rucker is accused of spending about $150,000 over four years to pay off gambling debts and buy personal items, including food, drinks and dry cleaning services.

Federal prosecutors said the money was supposed to go to charitable organizations in Cleveland that helped reduce violence.

"Credibility is everything in this type of work and I've been doing it all my life, so it was very, very disappointing to realize that Reggie did have this problem," Brown said.

Rucker was president of the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance and executive director of Amer-I-can Cleveland, which was founded by Jim Brown.  The organizations receive donations from local companies and foundations to help troubled young men turn their lives around by turning away from violence.

"He would get emails from foundations saying 'congratulations, you've been awarded this grant and almost immediately he would forward that to the casinos that he owed money to, saying 'Look, I'm good for the money,'" said Mike Tobin, spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office.

"He says he's very sorry, he knows he was wrong, not blaming anybody else... He's accepting responsibility for himself, and the vast majority of the money did go to its intended purpose," said defense attorney Michael Hennenberg.

"I literally asked the mayor this morning for $200,000," said Ward 2 Cleveland city councilman Zack Reed, reacting to the news.

Cleveland city councilman Zack Reed said he is so impressed with the program that he is still asking Mayor Frank Jackson to include money for it in the city's budget.

"We can't let one man because of what he did, stop us from doing the good things that these individuals continue to do on our streets," Reed said.

Although Brown said he cut ties with Rucker last March, he also feels the work still needs to be done.

"You continue to do the work, regardless of what the setbacks are… If there is a legitimate problem then he has to seek help, and he has to pay the price of what he's committed," Brown added.

Prosecutors said Rucker gambled in Cleveland, Florida and Las Vegas.

Fox 8 was unable to reach him for comment.

Rucker’s attorney said he plans to plead guilty to the charges.  He could face up to 20 years in prison, if he’s convicted. Although federal authorities said they doubt he would be sentenced to that much time behind bars.


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