Janis Fullilove discusses run-ins with law, public perception

By Janice Broach - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Janis Fullilove knows she has a long road ahead of her.

"I have cried so many nights," she said. "So many days..."

Fullilove fought back tears in her South Memphis home as she discussed her problems and the public's perception of her.

"They called me 'Janis full of drugs.' They called me 'Janis is gonna be a drunk for the rest of her life,'" she said.

Fullilove feels like she has a lot to prove, following two DUI's, fraud charges, alcohol and prescription pill abuse, and a long list of ailments.

"I had gone to so many doctors, different doctors, giving me different medications, and I was taking those medications, and I have to admit I abused them," she said. "Because they're telling me to take two. Well, two didn't work, so I took four.  Four didn't work, so I took six, you know, and I admit that."

Fullilove admits she was under the influence of medication when she got her first DUI.  Her second DUI came on a night she drank wine at a Tunica casino.

"I had gone down there and I won 35 dollars, and it's the honest to God truth, you would have thought I'd won $3,500, I was just so elated," she said. "I said, 'Ooh, I got some money. I can buy me some cigarettes. I can buy a Diet Pepsi,' and at the time, when I was sitting there, and I love to play penny machines, they would bring me wine, because they knew me at the time. They would bring it to me, so I'm drinking my wine, so I'm good. When I left, I decided to go to the store."

Fullilove said she was on her cell phone, something she preaches against now, when she missed a turn.

"I wasn't paying any attention," she said. "I was talking to my girlfriend, so instead of me driving around the curb, I drove on the grass, and when I did that, I told her 'Girl, I'm sitting up in here driven on the grass. Let me back up.' When I backed, up there were three DeSoto County squad cars - Tunica County - behind me."

"I sat up, and I looked at this man with tears in my eyes, and said, "Please don't do this to me. Please don't,'" she added. "But he did."

Fullilove lost her license, and later pleaded guilty to fraud for lying when she tried to get it back.  Now, she's on probation.

"I've let my family down, certainly let my God down, and let my constituents down, you know? And it's really been a struggle," she said. "I know my friends don't want to hear it. They've heard me over and over again. I know when they see me calling, they see the caller ID, and they're like, 'Oh, I'm not talking to her today.'"

Fullilove is now trying to find a job. She was fired from Northwest Community College when she entered rehab.  Her probation, combined with the face that she can't drive, has made finding another job difficult.

"My grandmother always told me when I was growing up, she said, 'You give out before you give up,'" Fullilove said. "And I'm not giving up."

Fullilove said her constituents can trust her not to make the same mistakes again.

"I have done things, I have admitted to those things, I am taking responsibility for those things, and no, it doesn't make me feel good," she said. "But it can, it makes me fight on, it makes me it gives me more determination to prove to those naysayers how wrong they are about me."

"You know despite my circumstances, I am working for my folk, and even for people that are not my folk," she added.

Fullilove is currently writing a book about her life, her addictions and city government.  She says she draws strength from the Bible, and watching Joel Osteen.

Fullilove's husband is recovering from his fifth heart attack, and currently, she's completing 150 hours of court-ordered community service.  She expects to get back her drivers license next February.

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