The Houston Astros found themselves in a sticky situation when they released pitcher Shawn Kelley last fall following his arrest for shoplifting: They had hired Kelley months earlier after he was implicated in a scandal involving the theft of a neck tattoo from an Oakland, Calif., beach while he was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
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The Blue Jays terminated Kelley’s contract in 2015 after he was accused of taking a tattoo from a tattoo artist who was stationed at the southern California beach. Kelley had bought the tattoo on his brother’s back, but turned it in without asking and displayed it on Instagram, according to the Telegraph.
Kelley pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of petty theft and was sentenced to one year of probation. Under his plea agreement, Kelley would not have been allowed to return to the beach for five years. In addition, the Blue Jays avoided a longer-term suspension for failing to immediately report Kelley’s behavior to Major League Baseball and the Canadian Baseball League, as well as the risk of being banned for nonpayment of a fine, according to the BBC.
On Monday, the Blue Jays announced that Kelley had signed with the Astros. That same day, Kelley’s arrest was announced in a news release from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. According to the report, Kelley had just stepped off a plane when he was stopped by sheriff’s deputies for driving without a license and allowed to drive away. Officers noticed a tattoo on Kelley’s neck that did not match his tattoo right back up front, and Kelley “stated that the tattoo was his and he bought it back.”
According to the release, Kelley was allegedly trying to steal a $12 necklace from a Dollar General store and was arrested on shoplifting charges for the third time since Sept. 2015. The price of the necklace that Kelley reportedly attempted to steal is listed as $14.97.
The Blue Jays tweeted that Kelley’s former team stands “firmly behind Kelley.” The Blue Jays also released a statement from Kelley, saying that his arrest was the “result of poor decisions on my part.”
“In 2015, while I was on a road trip in California, I was captured on video stealing a tattoo from an LA tattoo artist while he was serving his shift at the beach,” Kelley wrote. “I knew immediately what I did was wrong, but I was so overwhelmed with wanting to take my flight to Houston and on to the Astros that I failed to care about what was right or wrong.
“Although I didn’t realize that I was standing in front of deputies and a camera for hours, or that they had notified the media about my actions at the time, I was given an absolute sentence. The Blue Jays stood by me, and unlike the Astros, allowed me to enter into a plea agreement and not have to serve a year in jail. I am very grateful for that.”
Kelley said his drinking problem led to the incident. He credited the Blue Jays for helping him out, and said he had just started working in the offseason as a new “team ambassador” for the team. He ended the statement by writing, “Let’s keep to the right, and with your help, look to the future.”
Kelley is eligible to appear in Houston’s spring training game Tuesday. He will not need to be suspended by MLB for violating rules in the way Kelley did. MLB spokesperson Greg Bouris said Kelley would not be suspended “because it was handled privately, it was not reported to MLB prior to the incident, and it was the result of a misdemeanor.”