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Discounted
Tim Layden
November 22, 1999
His Heisman hopes dashed by a theft conviction, Florida State's Peter Warrick is trying to salvage what looked to be a dream season
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November 22, 1999

Discounted

His Heisman hopes dashed by a theft conviction, Florida State's Peter Warrick is trying to salvage what looked to be a dream season

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On the night of Thursday, Oct. 21, D'Alemberte met with Warrick and Kenny. The exasperated lawyer said, "Tell me what I need to get [as a plea bargain]." Answer: misdemeanor, and there could be no football until jail time was served. Kenny went back to Meggs and offered to plead to a misdemeanor and convert the 30 days in jail to 30 days in a work program, in which Warrick would be required to perform such tasks as cleaning trash on the side of Leon County highways. Meggs agreed to the bargain. Warrick is scheduled to begin the work program sometime later in the fall semester. The sentence might seem light, but Myrtil pleaded no contest to the felony and got just 10 days in the work program (converted to 150 hours of community service). Coles pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and also got 10 days. "Peter Warrick got hammered in this deal," says attorney Richard Greenberg, who represented Myrtil. Just minutes before Florida left for Clemson on Friday, Oct. 22, Warrick was cleared to rejoin the team.

He had been in limbo for two weeks. Normally a vocal, animated team leader, Warrick had become withdrawn. "It broke him. You could see it in his eyes," says Florida State strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger.

Some were quick to excuse Warrick. Florida State athletic director Dave Hart disingenuously called Warrick's crime "a student-athlete making a poor choice." Chardonnay with steak is a poor choice. Warrick broke the law, albeit somewhere south of murder if north of jaywalking. (It was his second arrest in 15 months, following one in the summer of 1998 for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence, a charge that was dropped.) Meggs is certain he could have made a felony case by proving Warrick and Myrtil were in cahoots on all three occasions, with thefts totaling $593. Kenny argues Myrtil was seeking Warrick's friendship by giving him huge discounts. "It's clearly a case where this young lady was enamored of the players," Kenny says. In response Myrtil's attorney, Greenberg, says, "Peter Warrick did not walk up to that register and get pleasantly surprised by a discount." When police asked Warrick if he understood that what he had done was wrong, Warrick answered, "Did I know it was wrong? I mean, anybody would know that."

He has publicly spoken about the incident at length only once. Two days before his arrest Warrick gave an interview to a group of media and, near the end of it, said, "It's not like I killed the president," a colossally insensitive statement that Kenny says Warrick regretted as soon as it left his lips.

Two weeks ago Warrick wrote a letter of apology that was published by the Tallahassee Democrat. In it Warrick wrote, "I don't want to send a message to young people that it is okay to break the law.... Learn from my experience so you will not have to experience it yourself."

Last week Warrick politely declined to be interviewed by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. "Every time I open my mouth, I wind up looking like a bad guy," he said. Pressed further, Warrick said, "I'm straight, man. I'm straight." Straight is Warrick's favorite word. During a summer interview, his decision to return for his senior year, hot Florida weather, nice clothes, Bowden, Florida State's junior quarterback Chris Weinke, Dayne and UCLA wideout Danny Farmer were all described by Warrick as straight.

His teammates are clearly straight with him. "Face it, what Peter did, every one of us would have done," says Whitaker. "He's a celebrity, they gave him a discount." Weinke, the 27-year-old former minor league baseball player who has made Warrick his favorite target (who wouldn't?), says, "I was disappointed in Peter. But I saw him walking around with his head down after it happened, and I told him, 'Pete, what's done is done. Everyone on this team supports you.' "

On the Friday before the Clemson game Warrick was rushed to the airport in time to join his teammates, and they congratulated him lustily. Warrick settled into his seat and said to a small group of teammates, "From now on, I'm shopping at Burdine's."

On a clear, windless evening last week Warrick ended practice with a series of sprints, gliding over the grass in a T-shirt and football pants like a hummingbird on gentle winds. Four days later he would catch nine passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns as the Seminoles crushed Maryland, 49-10, to run their record to 10-0. Warrick's pro future is safe, as long as he pays full price. "Are you kidding me? We're the ultimate whores," says one NFL general manager. "Of course [the arrest] is not going to affect where he's drafted. Hey, this is a business." Jerry Angelo, director of player personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, says, "Without question, the kid's going to be a high first-round pick."

Warrick gathered up his jersey, shoulder pads and helmet and jogged into the twilight. The autumn has left him damaged, with a lesser reputation, a longer rap sheet and no shot at the Heisman. Yet the storm has passed. There is a season left to finish, even if it is nothing like the one he had planned. That much is surely straight.

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