Huntsville City Councilman releases statement concerning shoplifting arrest
The City of Huntsville recused itself in the prosecution of the Councilman.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - UPDATE: The City of Huntsville’s Municipal Court has recused itself in the prosecution of Councilman Keith. A municipal court order moves the case to Athens. Judge Eddie Alley now has the case and will determine when Keith will make his first appearance.
ORIGINAL: Huntsville City District 1 Councilman Devyn Keith was booked into the Madison County Jail on shoplifting charges on Feb. 2.
Keith posted a statement on Facebook about the incident:
“Yesterday, after purchasing items at the self-checkout at Walmart, I left the store with a 20$ pair of headphones in my cart that I failed to pay for. I respect the professionalism of the Walmart staff and law enforcement officers involved with this matter.
I can’t express how grateful I am to have family, friends, and loved ones that have supported me, but I have to be accountable. No one is above the law and as someone who works for and aspires to devotedly represent the best of the people of Huntsville, I can’t make these type of mistakes. I know I am better than this.
To my D1 family, my only goal has always been to bring light to how truly amazing you are. I apologize… I am truly sorry that this time my actions have taken the spotlight off of you and placed the focus onto me. It won’t happen again.
To my greater Huntsville family and friends. I am just as sorry. I’ll work to meet the standards you’ve come to expect from me moving forward and I promise to be more responsible in the future.
Tommy Hodges, who lives in District 1, said he was in disbelief when he heard the news. Hodges said Councilman Keith runs his district with care, and this arrest should not tarnish his reputation as a council member.
“The fact that he got arrested for shoplifting doesn’t make him a bad district manager or a bad person,” said Hodges.
Keith was booked into the Madison County Jail at 3:05 PM. He was charged with theft of property 4th - shoplifting ($500 or less) which is a class A misdemeanor.
His colleague, Councilman Bill Kling, said Huntsville police officers should not treat this situation any differently based on Keith’s position.
“Certainly the city of Huntsville and the city council are aware of the situation. The Huntsville Police Department is handling this situation as they would any other citizen in the city of Huntsville,” said Councilman Kling.
Councilman Keith made history by serving as the youngest council member ever elected in Huntsville’s legislative branch during his first term. Hundreds of close friends and citizens of district 1 took to Facebook to show their support and say this is not in his character.
He was wrongfully detained in 2017 when Huntsville police officers mistook him for an armed robbery suspect.
It is unknown what will follow his arrest, but Hodges says this should not affect his position.
“There are people in elected office that’s been in trouble before,” said Hodges, “And why should they condemn him for something that they might’ve done something worse than he did, and they’re still in elected office.”
Some people in the Huntsville community believe he shouldn’t have been arrested at all.
The Huntsville Bail Fund posts bail on behalf of people arrested in Madison County and it pushes for reform surrounding the prison industrial complex.
One of its efforts is expanding the City of Huntsville’s cite and release policy.
Huntsville Bail Fund Executive Director Tahirih Osborne says Councilman Keith’s arrest would not have happened if city leaders had adopted an ordinance proposed by their group.
Under the policy, police would hand out citations for misdemeanors instead of arresting and booking people into jail.
The state gave municipalities like Huntsville the ability to expand the cite and release rule in 2021.
Osborne says the group has already had meetings with city leaders, Huntsville police officers and the city attorney. Osborne says it’s time for a change.
“We have the ability to say now that we don’t have to do that anymore,” explains Osborne. “We don’t have to waste officer resources on petty offenses anymore, we can de-escalate situations, letting people go on the scene, letting people get back to their working lives.”
She says the city of Huntsville is still operating under a 1993 cite and release policy that’s limited to municipal ordinance violations.
WAFF 48 contacted Councilman Keith for comment, but he has not returned our phone call.
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