A former Atlanta Falcons linebacker was sentenced Thursday to more than 12 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in federal court to drug trafficking.
Kenneth Leon Tippins, a seven-year NFL veteran who played for the Falcons from 1990 to 1995, pleaded guilty Jan. 23 to possessing about 612 grams of cocaine that federal prosecutors said he intended to distribute.
He was already serving a 10-year sentence on another drug conviction out of Cook County when he was found with cocaine in his Adel home on May 17, 2018, court records show. Tippins, 52, a Georgia native, was on probation at the time.
Officers performing probation checks went looking for Tippins that morning. When they couldn't find him at his home on Pine Lane, they went to his son’s home nearby. Tippins answered a knock at the door and consented to a search of the home by state and local officers, including a K9.
They found “multiple open boxes of clear plastic sandwich bags and a food saver vacuum sealer” known commonly to be used to package drugs in the kitchen, prosecutors said. In the master bedroom, officers found 22 clear plastic bags of cocaine “hidden in a cassette player.”
The drugs were analyzed and confirmed to be cocaine by the GBI, according to U.S. Attorney Charles Peeler. Tippins admitted in a plea agreement he “knowingly possessed with the intent to distribute 612.47 grams of cocaine.”
The case was investigated by FBI agents in the Valdosta office. It was his third felony drug conviction.
“This is a man who earned a rare spot at the highest level of his sport, and could have made a great deal of positive contributions to our society as a former NFL player,” Peeler said in a statement. “Instead, Mr. Tippins now has three criminal drug convictions, and was caught during a routine probation check with 22 bags of cocaine, admitting he intended to sell these dangerous drugs. When people choose to sell poison in their community instead of building their community up, the judicial system will impose the consequences.”
Tippins was sentenced as a career offender in the U.S. Middle District Court of Georgia by Senior Judge W. Louis Sands. He will serve 12 years and seven months to run alongside his existing Cook County sentence, which was set to expire in 2021. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, he was last released from prison in 2013.
The judge also sentenced Tippins to a three-year supervised release following the prison term.
The former Cook High School star played college football at Middle Tennessee State but was not selected in the 1989 NFL draft. Before he joined the Falcons in 1990, Tippins played one season with the Dallas Cowboys after signing as a free agent.
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