The lives and times at Free Shellfish University

A few weeks back I was walking through downtown Athens with my daughter, who is 6, and we wandered into a store specializing in Native American jewelry. She got her ears pierced last year for her birthday, so she’s semi-obsessed with earrings.

“Daddy, look at these,” she said, handing me a pair of silver earrings with dangling turquoise triangles. “Aren’t they cool?”

“Yes they are cool.”



“Can we buy them?”

“I don’t know, how much money do you have on you?” I answered.

“I don’t have any money,” she said with a slight grimace.

“Well these are $12, how are you going to get the money to pay for them?”

“Maybe you can get them for me, my birthday is soon,” she said. Always thinking this one is.

“I don’t have any money on me either,” I said.

“But daddy, I want them,” she said, looking up with those blue eyes that open wallets. “I can’t have them without paying money.”

* * *

Jameis Winston forgot.

On Tuesday, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Heisman Trophy winning quarterback for the national champion Florida State Seminoles football team,walked into a Tallahassee Publix a hungry man. He went to the deli and ordered $32.72 worth of crabs and crawfish, then left to get some butter, because there is nothing better with crab meat than melted butter (am I right or am I right?). At some point he thought maybe the butter was too much (got to keep in shape, you know) and set it down somewhere in the store (I just hope the Publix employees found it before it all melted).

He then gathered up his seafood, and left. Without paying.

I can’t speak for the grocery store knowledge of Jameis Winston. Perhaps he’s never been to a store and doesn’t understand people pay for the goods they receive. It could be he believed a barter system was in place (I win a championship, I get free shellfish). As Maj. Michael Wood of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office said, “I can’t see inside of his head to know what he was thinking.”

But most people know leaving a store without paying is called shoplifting, and it is a crime, which Winston learned several hours later when police showed up at his apartment (which is not unusual, but we’ll get to that). He admitted to police he did take the seafood and did not pay. In a statement sent out through his lawyer, Winston wrote: “As reported in the news, last night I received an adult citation for petit theft from a local supermarket. 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.”

For the “youthful ignorance” of a 20-year-old man, Winston received a civil citation which requires him to complete 20 hours of community service, and he will most likely have to pay the $32.72. If he completes all this in the proper time his record will be clean.

I get the feeling he won’t forget to pay his lawyer.

* * *

This is not the first time Winston has encountered police officials, though they were quicker to respond to the offense in question this time around.

Last year he faced accusations he raped a fellow FSU student in an investigation the New York Times revealed was flawed and slow to respond. Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs determined there was not enough evidence to prosecute Winston, just in time for Winston to play in the national championship game against Auburn. But the rape case, the most public of Winston’s brush with authorities, was not the first.

To wit:

• Tallahassee police were called to Winston’s apartment complex in November 2012 to investigate windows broken by BB gun pellets. Winston and his then-roommate said they were in “battles” with other FSU players. No charges.

• Records show Winston went to a Burger King with three other men and, asking for a water cup, continued to fill it with soda despite a BK employee telling him to stop (maybe Winston doesn’t understand this whole food-money concept). No charges.

So yes, there were no previous official charges brought against Winston, so he’s eligible for the civil citation program. Certainly it’s a service Tallahassee law enforcement officials offer to every first time offender who has not won Heisman and national championship trophies?


A five-minute search through the Leon County Sheriff’s Office public records reveals this is not the case, as several petit theft first time offenders were indeed arrested and booked into the Leon County jail. There’s Larry, who was booked Wednesday, for petit theft, first offense. Or Scott, who was booked Tuesday (same day as Winston’s indiscretion) for the same offense. Chris, booked April 19; Drew booked April 13. There were no other charges but petit theft first offense for these four, and no indication looking through records they were ever arrested for other crimes.

All I know is if I ever get in trouble, I want Winston’s lawyer.

* * *

There’s no telling if Florida State will do anything about this latest incident from Winston. In response to the New York Times story about the rape accusations against Winston, the university wrote in a statement it can’t comment on a disciplinary matter because state and federal privacy laws prevent it, and cited a segment of the Dear Colleague letter stating “if the complainant requests confidentiality or asks that the complaint not be pursued, the school should take all reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the complaint consistent with the request for confidentiality or request not to pursue an investigation.” Essentially, because FSU could not guarantee the young woman’s identity would remain anonymous, it believed there was little it could do.

The statement is unsigned, of course. FSU has all the confidentiality it needs for itself but for its student body not so much.

Winston was suspended indefinitely from the baseball team, though, as FSU coach Mike Martin said his relief pitcher can return when his community service is done. Seminole football coach Jimbo Fisher agreed with Martin, saying “I fully support Coach Martin’s decision and will also make sure that Jameis meets all obligations, which I know he will.” Jimbo’s just happy it didn’t happen four months from now.

It will be worth seeing where Winston does his community service, a chance where he can learn while serving his time. Maybe he can work at a fast-food drive up and understand people pay money for goods, or at a hospital ward where gun “battles,” even with BB guns, turn tragic. I could suggest a place where he could understand the plight of sexually abused and battered women, but that would simply make a difficult situation for women in those situations much more unbearable.

“I am grateful to be able to participate in the adult citation program where I will complete community service,” Winston wrote at the end of his statement, the key word being adult.

It’s too late for Winston to claim youthful ignorance, but can you blame him for thinking he’s allowed to do whatever he wants? He receives special treatment from law enforcement and lives in a town where everyone views him as a hero, which at 20 years old is a powerful potion. But it lasts only as long as the winning — a mark in the loss column quickly turns a funny story about stealing crabs into an embarrassment.

Even a 6 year old can tell you that.

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