Peter Warrick, an all-American wide receiver and Heisman Trophy hopeful, was suspended indefinitely from the top-ranked Florida State football team after being arrested yesterday on charges of stealing from a Tallahassee department store. Warrick could miss the rest of his senior season.
Laveranues Coles, another senior wide receiver for the Seminoles, also was charged with felony grand theft. He was dismissed from the team.
Police said a department store clerk let the players buy $412.38 worth of designer clothing for $21.40 on Sept. 29. An off-duty police officer working for the department store's security office saw what happened through a surveillance camera, police said. The clerk, 19-year-old Rachel Myrtil, also was charged with felony grand theft.
Coles, 21, and Warrick, 22, surrendered at the Leon County (Fla.) Jail yesterday and were released without bond, assistant state's attorney Warren Goodwin said. Arrangements were being made for Myrtil to surrender. Each could face up to five years in prison if convicted, but they probably would get probation, Goodwin told reporters.
Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said in a statement that Coles was dismissed because "he was on probation with me to begin with," a reference to Coles's suspension for the Seminoles' 1998 season opener and his 150 hours of community service following a misdemeanor assault against his stepmother. He was also academically ineligible for this season's opening game.
Coles (12 receptions for 179 yards and one touchdown this season) and Warrick already had been suspended for Saturday's game against 19th-ranked Miami while police investigated whether they were witnesses or suspects in the case. Warrick has 36 catches for 508 yards and four touchdowns this season. In addition, he is averaging 16.2 yards per return, with one return for a touchdown; he has scored two rushing touchdowns and thrown a touchdown pass.
Senior Ron Dugans and either senior Marvin Minnis or senior Germaine Stringer would start if the Seminoles go with two wide receivers and a tight end Saturday. If three wide receivers are used, Dugans and freshman Anquan Boldin would start, along with either Minnis or Stringer.
Bowden said he was "terribly disappointed" by Warrick's actions, calling him a "hard worker and good leader."
Warrick's status is as much in the university's hands as it is the judicial system's. "Prior to this terrible mistake in judgment, Peter Warrick had been in very good standing as a student-athlete at Florida State," Florida State Athletic Director Dave Hart Jr., said in a statement. "Therefore, the opportunity for him to return to the team will be dictated by the legal process as well as the components of our code. . . .
"Talent doesn't make you immune to accountability. It is a hard lesson to learn with so much at stake, but we have talked many times to our student-athletes about making choices and the consequences associated with poor choices. This, which unfortunately affects a lot of people, is one of those situations."
Under university rules, an athlete charged with a felony is suspended until the case is resolved. Then, if the athlete is found, or pleads guilty, his or her actions would be subject to review under the university's Code of Student Conduct. Sanctions for being found "responsible" for a violation of the code, which covers criminal acts on and off campus, range from reprimand to expulsion. Among the possible sanctions is a probation category under which an athlete can be banned from competing.
Goodwin said an arraignment will be scheduled in two to three weeks and then a status hearing will be scheduled. A trial date would be set at the status hearing. Goodwin declined to discuss any plea-bargaining arrangements but alluded to them when he said, "Things can happen quicker if a defendant wants it more quickly." It is possible for the case to be resolved within two to three weeks, Goodwin said.
Attempts to reach Warrick, Coles and Myrtil were unsuccessful and John Kenny, a lawyer whom Goodwin said had been retained by Warrick, did not return a phone message.
Myrtil told investigators that she knew Coles and Warrick from seeing them at parties and on campus. She admitted voiding the true prices of the clothing Coles and Warrick were purchasing, police said.
Warrick told police Myrtil had done the same thing for him one or two times before and acknowledged he knew it was wrong. "Anybody would know that," he told an investigator, according to police records.