Other accounts of laptop theft differ from Newton's
Published: Friday, December 10, 2010 at 4:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 10, 2010 at 4:47 p.m.
Paul Loschak harbors no ill will toward Heisman Trophy favorite Cam Newton, despite allegations that Newton stole Loschak's laptop in 2008.
Loschak just wishes Newton hadn't thrown the laptop out of a University of Florida residence hall window.
"I could have had my laptop back fully working. Instead I got a broken, cracked laptop ... with 'Cam Newton' written on top," he said.
Loschak was a UF senior when Newton, a sophomore backup quarterback for the Gators at the time, allegedly stole his laptop and tossed it from a window to avoid arrest. Loschak had painted a forest scene on the laptop cover to distinguish it from others. The retrieved laptop had been painted black with Newton's name written in white paint.
Newton, now quarterback at Auburn University, enters today's Heisman ceremony as the overwhelming favorite to win the trophy. The criminal charges he faced in connection with the laptop theft have been overshadowed recently by allegations Newton's father sought payment for his transfer from a junior college and a news report that cases of cheating led to his departure from UF.
Loschak said Heisman voters should consider the laptop incident only if character considerations are part of the award criteria.
"I still don't know if he stole it or not ... but he still chose to acquire it and throw it out the window," he said.
Newton has said he bought the laptop and didn't steal it, but the UF police report tells a different story. After Newton was arrested, police reported overhearing him say on his cell phone that "there was a computer, and I took it." A few minutes later he said he threw the laptop out the window because his room was about to be searched, according to police.
Loschak reported the laptop — valued at $1,700 — was stolen Oct. 16, 2008, from his unlocked dorm room. A week later, he received an e-mail from UF telling him his Internet was being temporarily shut down for using the file-sharing program Limewire.
Loschak had bought a new laptop but hadn't installed Limewire, which can be used to illegally download music.
"That's when I knew that whoever had my computer was doing illegal stuff with it," he said.
UF found that someone using Newton's log-in name had used the computer to access the university network, according to police. On Nov. 11, police went to Newton's dorm room. A laptop on his desk was the same as Loschak's model but had a serial number that was slightly different from the one listed in police reports.
Detectives left to check the serial number, finding that it did match Loschak's laptop and that police had written it wrong initially. In the meantime, Newton spoke with Gainesville lawyer Huntley Johnson. The attorney typically represents Gator football players facing criminal charges.
When police returned, the laptop was gone. Newton was arrested, and police took his cell phone. While an officer had the phone, police said it received a text message from a student who said Newton's laptop was now behind a dormitory dumpster. Police found it there.
Newton was charged with felony counts of burglary, larceny and obstruction of justice. Loschak said he decided against pursuing the charges because he was graduating from UF in the spring and didn't want to return for court hearings. He also was afraid of retribution if Newton was kicked off the team.
"At the time I was interested in my safety," he said.
State Attorney Bill Cervone reduced charges and agreed to deferred prosecution because Loschak declined to participate in the case, said Spencer Mann, spokesman for the State Attorney's Office. Newton was required to attend anti-theft counseling, write an apology letter to Loschak and do 50 hours of community service in exchange for charges eventually being dropped.
He was allowed to complete the requirements in Texas, where he transferred to a junior college before enrolling at Auburn.
Loschak has since graduated from UF and is now seeking his doctorate in mechanical engineering at an out-of-state university. While he said that Newton's conduct raised questions, the quarterback's play this season made him wish that Newton was winning the Heisman at UF.
"It would have been nice if he would have been playing for the Gators," he said.
Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or email@example.com.