Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Father of USF football player at center of incident that led to Jim Leavitt firing arrested on felony grand theft charge

TAMPA — Paul Miller, the father of the USF football player at the center of the incident that led to coach Jim Leavitt's firing last year, was arrested last week on a felony charge of grand theft, accused of taking a woman's wallet from a cart in a New Tampa supermarket.

Miller, 59, a retired Tampa police officer, was arrested late Thursday night by Tampa police and later released on $2,000 bond. According to the arrest report, video cameras at the Publix on Cross Creek Boulevard showed him Wednesday picking up a Coach brand wallet left in a shopping cart and putting it in his pants pocket. The report said Miller admitted to putting the wallet in his pocket and not turning it in to store employees, but said he left the wallet in the cart before he left the store. The wallet was not recovered, and the arrest report says camera footage does not show a wallet in his cart at checkout.

Miller's son, Joel, was allegedly grabbed by the throat and slapped twice by Leavitt during halftime of a 2009 USF football game, and Paul Miller was quoted in the initial story that led to USF's investigation and the coach's subsequent dismissal. Leavitt filed a wrongful termination suit and USF eventually paid him $2.75 million in a January settlement. Joel Miller is a senior receiver on this year's Bulls team and caught a key pass in overtime that set up the winning score in USF's win at Miami in November.

The alleged victim, 24-year-old Alaina Winchell of Tampa, told police the wallet was valued at $85 and had $280 in cash inside, pushing the value of the theft above the $300 limit for a misdemeanor, making it a felony charge. Miller was identified after a Publix employee recognized him on security camera footage as a regular customer and remembered his vanity license plate, "BEEGOOD," according to the arrest report.

The report states that Miller initially "denied any knowledge of the offense" and "changed his story numerous times" and "at one point claimed he saw a small child (that) may have taken the wallet." Reached by phone Monday, Paul Miller said the incident was a "misunderstanding" and expressed disappointment that he was charged by the same law enforcement unit that he worked for until retiring in 2005.

"I don't know why they did what they did. There should have been a little professional courtesy," Miller said by phone. "You know, they're treating me like I was ... Gosh, come on now. I was a cop for 25 years. I was in the military. What are you doing to me here? Don't get me wrong. I don't want preferential treatment from cops. ... They did their job and did their job well. I'm not saying anything about the officers."

The police report quotes Miller as saying he would "pay the victim back for any losses," but Monday he said he hadn't done that. "How much could it be, like 15 bucks?" he said. "I never even looked at it, so I don't know." According to the arrest report, Miller has retained high-profile Tampa attorney Barry Cohen, who had also represented his son during the Leavitt case, though no legal action was taken by the Miller family.

Father of USF football player at center of incident that led to Jim Leavitt firing arrested on felony grand theft charge 08/22/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 22, 2011 3:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Storm routs Cleveland


    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  2. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  3. Rowdies shut out Charleston


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.
  4. Rays journal: Former closer Sergio Romo acquired from Dodgers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays made a move to help the bullpen Saturday night when they acquired RHP Sergio Romo, who had been designated for assignment last week by the Dodgers.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi (23) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, July 7, 2017.
  5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. backs wife's "not worth risk'' opinion on Daytona

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Saturday defended his wife's Twitter post — and blamed himself for putting her in a position where she believed she had to speak out and upset some of his fans.

    Amy Earnhardt worries about Dale Jr.’s concussions.