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Brazen meets kind in a courtroom
Phone, keys gone, a woman keeps her cool.
By COLLEEN JENKINS, Times Staff Writer
Published October 16, 2007
TAMPA - This happened on Monday at the Tampa courthouse:
A woman in a pinstripe suit stepped outside the courtroom to talk to someone. She left behind her newspaper, her keys and her cell phone.
When she walked back in, her newspaper was still there, but the other items were gone.
A young woman in a red velour sweatshirt was sitting where she had left her things.
Pinstripe Suit asked Red Velour Sweatshirt if she had seen her keys and her phone. Red Velour Sweatshirt shook her head no.
Pinstripe Suit looked around the bench, under the bench. She approached a bailiff, who told her no one had turned anything in.
She turned back to Red Velour Sweatshirt. Are you sure you haven't seen my things?
Red Velour Sweatshirt looked her in the eye and said she had not.
Pinstripe Suit walked to the back of the courtroom. She borrowed a cell phone and dialed her own number.
She followed the sound. Everyone seated in that part of the courtroom watched her. She followed it to the pocket of the red velour sweatshirt.
She reached into the pocket and plucked out her phone.
Red Velour Sweatshirt said nothing, offered no explanation.
A couple of sheriff's deputies looked at each other but didn't do anything.
Pinstripe Suit bent over Red Velour Sweatshirt and whispered, "I am going to have you arrested if you don't give me my keys."
"I don't have them," Red Velour Sweatshirt said.
Pinstripe Suit stepped past Red Velour Sweatshirt and sat down beside her.
For long minutes, they sat in silence.
A woman in the row behind them leaned in and said, "Did you find your keys?"
"No," Pinstripe Suit said. "She's still got them."
Red Velour Sweatshirt said something barely audible: "You don't have to make a scene."
In an even tone, Pinstripe Suit said she wouldn't, as long as she got her keys back.
Red Velour Sweatshirt relented. "I have enough problems already," she said. From her other pocket, she removed a single key on a gold Lexus key chain and dropped it into the woman's lap.
"Thank you," Pinstripe Suit said.
She sat there a few minutes longer. When she stood to leave, she noticed that Red Velour Sweatshirt was crying.
She looked at her with concern.
She bent down and hugged her.
"Everything will be all right," Pinstripe Suit said. "Bless your heart."
* * *
The woman in the pinstripe suit was 52-year-old Shirley A. Johnson, who was in court for a case involving her son. Outside the courtroom, she said she didn't turn the young woman in because she didn't want her to go to jail. Even though she lied about the cell phone and keys, she was polite, said Johnson. "So I knew she would give them to me eventually."
The woman in the red velour sweatshirt was 25-year-old Tinisha Moore. She is fighting a child abuse charge. It's her second arrest. The first, at age 16, was for stealing.
Encounters is dedicated to small but meaningful stories. Sometimes they will play out far from the tumult of the daily news; sometimes they may be part of the news. To comment or suggest an idea for a story, contact editor Mike Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2924.