Huntsville City Council member pleads guilty to shoplifting charges

WAFF's Claudia Peppenhorst reporting
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 2:09 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2023 at 6:24 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A Huntsville City Council member pleaded guilty on Tuesday to shoplifting from local Walmart stores.

Devyn Keith pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor theft charges. He was accused of committing over 30 thefts across three Huntsville Walmart locations between Nov. 14, 2022, and Feb. 2, 2023 and was ultimately charged with four counts of misdemeanor theft. The other two misdemeanor charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

For pleading guilty to the first charge, Keith was given a 90 day suspended sentence and two years probation.

For pleading guilty to the second charge, Keith was given a 180 day suspended sentence and two years probation.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Tim Gann explained that if Keith completes his probation without any problems, he will not spend any time behind bars. However, if he violates his probation, the suspended sentence will be enforced and Keith will go to jail.

Keith will also have to pay restitution to Walmart and is banned from Walmart property.

Keith gave the following statement in response to the charges:

Thank you to my family, my friends, and my community. I’m so grateful for you. Through this very tough time, you all have not only been a tremendous blessing in my life: praying for me, sowing wisdom and love into me, but you’ve kept me going. Some days by inspiring me to keep moving forward and other days you just picked me up and carried me. I’d also like to thank my legal counsel for guiding me through this process, and also the many, many others who took the opportunity to be kind, to encourage me, to call, or to write. Thank you all.

I have had six months to gather my thoughts and attempt to write the correct words for this moment. I’ve written and erased many words, many times, but my heart consistently seems to reflect one thing: growth.

My entire life I have believed in accountability. To fight for the fair share of all. I brought that perspective to City Council, and even through this entire ordeal I have never moved from that position. Accountability is important to me. I have nothing but respect toward the State and Walmart Representatives.

Now, the agreement that was reached today acknowledges that I was negligent, and I was careless in scanning items, and that, in fact, makes me wrong. Therefore, because I was wrong, from the beginning, I expressed to the State that I would pay full restitution for those items including, additional fees. I have even offered to do more community hours than what was given by the State because I believe deeply in accountability. The agreement also acknowledges that two of the charges were dropped. My lawyer and I were able to review the evidence, and I was able to provide my lawyer with bank statements that contested the allegations. In some instances, we could show on video that I simply just didn’t take the alleged stolen items.

Nevertheless, the agreement does hold me accountable for my negligence in the past year. A failure to scan items such as Skittles, butterfingers, and $20 headphones, if I didn’t pay for an item, I am wrong. It was never my intent to not scan these items.

I can’t express enough that I do understand the gravity of this moment. Throughout these past six months, I have received extremely hateful emails and letters. I have been called every name in the book of racial slurs. In February, there was wall-to-wall coverage of the allegation against me every night on every local channel for two weeks straight. It was printed in a New York City tabloid and covered by political commentators all the way in California.

I mention this to really illustrate that I deeply understand the responsibility that comes with being a public official, in as much as the blessing it is to represent the best people on this side of heaven.

Yes, I stand here today as an individual, but people care about this case because of my position as City Councilman. In some professions, you get to go home and take off the uniform, but as an elected public servant, I don’t get to do that. When I got to the store, I’m Councilman Devyn Keith. When I’m at church, I’m Councilman Devyn Keith. I’ve often found that even at my home, I’m still living the role of public servant. However, that’s not a burden, that’s a privilege. A privilege that I will never again take lightly.

The care, the attention to detail, the mindfulness, the character, the good judgment, and the integrity that by God’s grace I have fought to bring to City Hall for the past seven years, it must extend everywhere that I go and all that I do. I promise that moving forward it will.

Lastly, I would like to reiterate an apology to my family, my friends, my district, and my city. I have spoken to so many of you privately, but publically I’d like to apologize again for any negative attention my actions have brought. You all are wonderful and doing amazing things for this city, and I don’t ever again want to do anything that takes the spotlight off of you and puts the focus onto me.

While this moment does not define me, I have learned from it.

I am wiser and better because of it, I have grown. As I have stated before, I am a better man today than I was on Feb. 2nd, 2023. Though my public growth comes with public growing pains, I believe the lessons that I am learning will far outweigh the trials I have had to endure to receive them.

Again, I apologize but moreover, I’m grateful.

God bless you.

God Bless Huntsville.

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Keith was charged with theft of property 4th - shoplifting ($500 or less). After 45 minutes behind bars, Keith bonded out.