Winn-Dixie shopper sees charge dismissed
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- The State Attorney's Office has dismissed shoplifting charges against a woman accused of stealing a $2.58 package of false fingernails from a Winn-Dixie.
"I am really happy, because I didn't do it," said Kathleen Ann Germack, 39.
But the mother of two young daughters, who has never been in trouble with the law, said she is upset that the incident will remain part of her record.
"That's not fair. That sounds just like I did it," she said. "I don't deserve that."
Her attorney, Jay Hebert, said despite the dismissal, public records will show that his client had been accused of retail theft.
On Oct. 20, Mrs. Germack was accused of stealing a package of nails while shopping at the Winn-Dixie supermarket at 1049 62nd Ave. N. She had purchased $66.97 worth of groceries, but as she prepared to leave the store, the security alarm sounded. A search of her cart revealed nothing that could have set off the alarm. However, when supermarket employees checked her handbag, they found the package of nails in a cosmetic case. Mrs. Germack said she tried to explain that she had bought the nails earlier and that the package had been opened. The manager did not believe her explanation and called police, she said.
Winn-Dixie should now apologize for accusing her of being a thief, said Mrs. Germack, who lives on a lake in Meadowlawn.
"They made me feel really crappy, because they made me feel that everybody looked at me that way," she said.
"I think they owe it to me. I think they should give me the nails back. I've been taking sleeping pills. They messed with me."
Mickey Clerc, company spokesman for Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., said the supermarket chain will not comment about the matter.
In June the state attorney also dismissed shoplifting charges against Clara Woodard, a 56-year-old woman who was accused of stealing a $6.96 black umbrella at the Winn-Dixie at 850 Third Ave. S. Mrs. Woodard was interrogated, arrested and booked into the Pinellas County Jail. Later, though, a videotape from Mercantile Bank, at 240 First Ave. S, where Mrs. Woodard had made a deposit, showed the housekeeper with the umbrella long before her supermarket stop.
Around the same time last year, Stecil Ferguson also was accused of shoplifting at the Winn-Dixie at 850 Third Ave. S. Mrs. Ferguson, who was detained with a tube of lip balm and vial of ointment in her pocket, fought the accusation in court and won. The retired office worker said she had forgotten that she had placed the items in her pocket for safekeeping during a stop to check her blood pressure.
Unlike Mrs. Woodard, who is black, neither Mrs. Ferguson nor Mrs. Germack was handcuffed and taken to jail after the accusations. Rather, Mrs. Ferguson and Mrs. Germack were ordered to appear in court at a later date. The St. Petersburg Police Department has said that the arresting officer determines the manner in which each person is handled.
Shoplifting is a worrisome issue for the retail industry, said Sarah Scheuer, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation in Washington, D.C.
It accounts for 33.5 percent of all retail shrinkage, while employee theft accounts for 44.2 percent, administrative error accounts for 17.2 percent and vendor fraud, 5.1 percent, she said, according to the 2000 National Retail Security Survey conducted by the University of Florida.
"Any type of inventory shrinkage is a concern for retailers," Ms. Scheuer said.
"As the numbers show, employee theft contributes to a larger source of shrinkage than shoplifting. However, both of those sources combined are a major concern for retailers, because they contribute to well over half of all inventory shrinkage."
Mrs. Germack had been set to go to trial Feb. 12.
The dismissal of charges was justified, Hebert said.
"We felt very strongly that in Mrs. Germack's case, there was overwhelming evidence that she had purchased these nails prior to entering the store and there was a serious malfunction with regard to Winn-Dixie security," the attorney said.
"We provided the state with a lengthy witness list of people who were familiar with Mrs. Germack's purchasing habits, including her own children. In addition to that, they were able to testify they had seen this particular package of nails prior to her going into the store."
Hebert said he also is responding to Winn-Dixie's attempt to collect $200 in civil damages from Mrs. Germack under a Florida statute that lets merchants recoup some of their losses from shoplifting.
"We intend to dispute them totally," said Hebert, who also is representing Mrs. Woodard against the Winn-Dixie chain.
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the Times
South Pinellas desks