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Cheerleader can't profit from fame, judge rules

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS
Published March 14, 2006


TAMPA - Her mug shot made her famous in November, but if she wants to avoid a criminal trial, ex-Carolina Panthers cheerleader Victoria Renee Thomas won't be able to make money off of her notoriety, a Hillsborough Circuit Court judge decided Monday.

The story sizzled through newspapers, sports television, porn Web sites and around water coolers across the country: Thomas was accused of having sex with a fellow cheerleader in a bathroom stall at Banana Joe's at Channelside, then punching a bar patron who complained.

Thomas, 21, was charged with battery, giving a false name to law enforcement and the unlawful display of a license. Police alleged that she used the driver's license of a different cheerleader to identify herself.

Thomas appeared in Hillsborough Circuit Court on Monday to accept the conditions of an 18-month pretrial intervention program that will enable her to avoid trial and keep her record clean.

Terms of the program include one year's probation, 50 hours of community service, a 12-week anger management course and $400 in restitution to the woman she was accused of punching. Thomas must alert authorities if she changes her residence.

And she is prohibited from using the attention garnered by the case to turn a profit.

Thomas can meet the program's conditions in North Carolina, so she will not need to return to Tampa for the criminal case. However, she is being sued in civil court by Melissa Holden, the woman accusing Thomas of punching her in the eye.

Holden was unhappy with the plea deal, her attorney, Jose Toledo, said Monday.

"We're really surprised by the whole thing, and I think this is exactly why Melissa wanted to file this lawsuit," Toledo said. "She never really had any confidence that the public justice system was going to work for her."

Thomas has countered Holden's suit with an accusation of defamation. But Toledo said the deal is proof that Thomas struck Holden.

The confrontation reportedly began after Thomas and Angela Keathley, 26, tied up a bathroom stall while angry bar patrons thought they heard the women having sex.

Thomas and her attorney continued to deny the sex accusation.

Police said Thomas initially identified herself as a different cheerleader on the team when confronted after the fight. Thomas landed a felony charge for the fake name because the woman whose name she used suffered from negative publicity. Thomas and Keathley have since been fired from the TopCats cheerleading squad.

In January, Keathley pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a police officer. She was also placed in a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders, which includes six months' probation and 32 hours of community service.

Thomas did not speak on her own behalf in court.

[Last modified March 14, 2006, 00:53:05]


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