*Florida State quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was issued a civil citation after sheriff’s deputies say he walked out of a supermarket without paying for $32 worth of crab legs and crawfish.
Leon County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Michael Wood said Wednesday that the 20-year-old ordered the food at the deli in a Tallahassee, Fla.-area Publix on Tuesday night. After receiving the order, he left the store without paying.
Wood said Publix employees called deputies, who went to Winston’s apartment. Wood said Winston was “very cooperative” in a post-Miranda interview and acknowledged not paying for the food, saying he forgot.
After consulting with Publix managers, deputies issued Winston a civil citation that will require him to complete at least 20 hours of community service. If he does that, no criminal charges will be filed. He will also likely have to pay restitution.
“The facts are not in dispute,” Wood said. “He left without paying.”
Wood said Winston was cooperative.
“He indicated to the deputies he had forgotten and when he got home he realized that he had not paid, but in fact he had made no effort to contact Publix or return to pay prior to the deputies’ arrival” three hours after Winston left the store, Wood said.
Winston, in a signed statement, said he’s taking full responsibility for an “unfortunate” incident.
“As reported in the news, last night I received an adult citation for petit theft from a local supermarket,” the statement read. “I went to the supermarket with the intent to purchase dinner but made a terrible mistake for which I’m taking full responsibility. In a moment of youthful ignorance, I walked out of the store without paying for one of my items.
“I realize that I am in the public spotlight and my conduct needs to be above reproach. Over the last year I’ve learned that my accomplishments on the fields can be a wonderful thing for my school, teammates, friends and family. At the same time, I must realize that my mistakes are magnified and can bring great embarrassment to all those who support me every day.
“I make no excuses for my actions and will learn and grow from this unfortunate situation. I hope and pray my friends and family will view me as the 20 year old young man that I am, and support me through this unfortunate situation. I am grateful to be able to participate in the adult citation program where I will complete community service.”
Florida State suspended Winston from its baseball team as a result of the citation. The university’s athletic department code of conduct/discipline policy provides that a student-athlete with a civil citation is eligible to practice and compete, but that the head coach decides whether he/she will.
A preseason All-American, Winston is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 16 appearances this spring.
“I am confident he will complete his community service obligation and the situation will be resolved soon,” FSU coach Mike Martin said.
Winston led the Florida State football team to the national championship last season as a freshman, starring in the undefeated Seminoles’ 34-31 victory over Auburn in the championship game.
The civil citation is a pre-arrest diversion in an effort to keep people out of the criminal justice system, Wood said. It is a program, instituted within the past year, for nonviolent, minor crimes and first-time offenses for people without a criminal history, and is a discretionary decision by the officer. The Leon County Sheriff’s Office has issued only 32 citations since December.
Winston has been linked to other trouble in the past. He was cleared in December of potential sexual assault charges by State Attorney Willie Meggs, who concluded there were too many gaps in the accuser’s story. Meggs said that the woman’s memory was faulty and that there was not enough evidence of a crime to win a conviction.
The woman claimed she was assaulted before Winston became a star. The investigation lagged for months after Tallahassee Police Department officials said they were told the accuser wanted to drop the case, but the woman’s lawyer denied that. The accuser’s lawyers have said the police department botched the investigation because detectives didn’t quickly identify possible witnesses or obtain surveillance tape from the bar where the victim says she was first approached by Florida State football players.
Although it was the most serious accusation, the sexual assault case was not Winston’s only brush with the law in Tallahassee.
In November 2012, police were called to an apartment complex in which 13 windows had been damaged by BB guns. Winston and his roommate at the time said Florida State players were engaged in a series of “battles” with each other, although they denied shooting BB guns themselves. Winston was not charged with any crime.
In another incident, police records show Winston came into a Burger King with three men but did not order food, instead asking for a water cup he repeatedly filled with soda over an employee’s objections. The report says Winston was never interviewed about the incident because the restaurant declined to prosecute.