Fla. university punishes homecoming queen nominee for her role in newspaper theft incident

University of Central Florida officials punished one of theschool’s homecoming queen nominees after she told other students to throw away stacks ofthe student newspaper, which had reported that she had a criminalrecord.

The Orlando university’s punishment required Katie Noland toperform 16 hours of community service and pay the newspaper $1,000, said Brian Linden, co-publisher of TheFuture.

Because a Florida law prohibits universities from releasing information about student disciplinary records, it is unclear whether the school punished others involved in the incident. Noland informed the newspaper about her punishment, said Heissam Jebailey, The Future’s co-publisher.

At the time of the theft, Noland was a candidate for UCFhomecoming queen. An article in the newspaper reported that she pleaded guiltyin 2000 to charges of felony burglary and grand larceny involving the theft of aroommate’s computer.

Ashley Burns, The Future sports editor, said that onOct. 16 he saw “this girl [with] a stack of newspapers about a foot-and-a-halfhigh, heading toward the trashcan.” About 1,000 copies of the newspaper weretaken.

Linden said he went to the campus police department to report thetheft but was told that because the newspapers are free, there was no chargeableoffense. After showing the sergeant that students at other universities wereprosecuted for stealing copies of free student newspapers, the police decided totake Linden’s report of the incident.

“They didn’t think they’d be ableto prosecute,” Linden said. “We decided to contact the school and go through theStudent Conduct Board.”

Linden said the university looked into thenewspaper’s claim and called Noland and members of her sorority in for a meetingwith the student judiciary board.

After the theft, Noland was crownedhomecoming queen but has since resigned the crown to therunner-up.

Linden said that when he heard the student was punished forthe theft, he wrote letters to the university president and provost’s offices aswell as the campus police informing them of the importance of prosecutingnewspaper thefts.

“When the chief of police got that letter, he called mein and told me that he looked at everything,” Linden said. “He said he haddecided [the campus police] were misinformed” and newspaper theft should be aprosecutable offense.

Linden said he is pleased with the outcome of thecase.

“Before, when we had problems with newspaper theft, it happenedundercover,” Linden said. “This case was blatant. It happened in the middle ofthe [student] union in the middle of the day.”

Linden said at least threesmaller instances of newspaper thefts have occurred in the five years he hasbeen with the paper, but the last large newspaper theft was in themid-1990s.

Noland did not respond to requests for comment.

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