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Falcons Release Receiver Martin

February 27, 1999

ATLANTA (AP) _ The NFC champion Atlanta Falcons on Friday cut their leading receiver, Tony Martin, who was charged this month with laundering money for a convicted drug dealer.

Martin was the second prominent player to be cut by the Falcons since their Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos, following linebacker Cornelius Bennett, the team’s leading tackler.

Martin, 33, led Atlanta with 66 catches for 1,181 yards and six touchdowns, but the Falcons were clearly concerned about his legal troubles and a clause in his contract that called for him to receive $400,000 if he was on the roster Monday.

Martin’s lawyers filed a motion this week asking the federal court in Miami to postpone the trial _ tentatively scheduled to begin May 3 _ until next year. The receiver is charged with five counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy.

Falcons general manager Harold Richardson said if Martin was exonerated, ``there’s always the chance we would consider re-signing him.″

Martin’s release came on the same day the Falcons signed receiver Chris Calloway, who led the New York Giants in receptions the last four seasons.

``The two moves are not related,″ Richardson said. ``We would have signed Calloway even if Martin were still on the roster.″

Richardson deferred all other questions to Atlanta coach Dan Reeves, who was en route to Kansas City to receive an award Saturday night and not available for comment.

Martin’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, of Memphis, Tenn., was not at his office and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Martin caught five passes in Atlanta’s 34-19 loss to Denver in the Jan. 31 Super Bowl at Miami. One week later, he appeared in a Miami courtroom after being named in a federal indictment.

Martin’s legal troubles stem from his longtime relationship with Rickey Brownlee, who spent seven years in prison for 1980s drug convictions and faces new charges for alleged heroin and cocaine trafficking.

``I’m not guilty of anything,″ Martin told reporters after being released on $250,000 bond. ``This whole thing is ludicrous. After this trial is over, I will be cleared.″

He is not accused of involvement in Brownlee’s alleged drug business. Prosecutors said he wrote checks to lease luxury cars and pay legal fees for his friend because Brownlee’s lawyers wouldn’t take cash.

Brownlee allegedly gave cash to Martin for deposits on the cars and the lawyers’ fees. After his financial records were subpoenaed, Martin stopped payment on a $175,000 check to the lawyers and showed a copy of the subpoena to Brownlee’s associates, according to the indictment.

Martin also returned thousands in cash in an effort to conceal the scheme, prosecutors said.

Martin’s lawyers, Howard Srebnick and Roy Black, hope to get a ruling on their request for a delay in the trial before their client’s arraignment on March 8.

The Falcons acquired Martin from San Diego for a second-round draft pick last June. He teamed with Terance Mathis to give the Falcons the NFL’s second-most productive pair of receivers in terms of yardage, trailing only Minnesota’s duo of Randy Moss and Cris Carter.

Martin made $1.5 million this season and was to have been paid $1.8 million in 1999.

Martin began his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins, his hometown team, before going to San Diego, where he averaged 72 catches and 1,046 yards in four seasons.

He is the second Falcons player to face legal trouble in Miami in recent weeks. Pro Bowl safety Eugene Robinson was arrested the night before the Super Bowl on charges of soliciting oral sex from a female undercover police officer. Robinson is due back in court March 2.

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