Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman, charged with stealing an office chair from a Lacey store, released a video Wednesday of himself trying to return the chair and eventually bringing it to police. In the video, Eyman calls the incident a "total mistake."
Tim Eyman tried to bring a chair he’s accused of stealing back to the Office Depot from whence it came, filming his attempt to clear up what he called “a big misunderstanding.”
It was an accident that he walked out of the office-supply store without paying for the $70 chair, he said in a YouTube video he released Wednesday.
Eyman, who’s known for filing anti-tax initiatives in Washington state for more than two decades, was charged Tuesday with misdemeanor theft by prosecutors in Lacey, near Olympia, after he was caught on surveillance cameras rolling the chair out of the store without having paid for it.
In his video, Eyman explains that he had just gotten back from a four-day vacation to Orlando, Florida, with his daughter and that this was his first opportunity to try to pay for the chair and make things right.
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He says that last week he was at the store he frequents and legitimately bought “a bunch of equipment,” rolled the chair outside and put it in his car, then returned to pay for things but accidentally forgot to pay for the chair.
“I thought I had paid for everything,” he says to the camera. “Found out on Friday that I ended up not. Total mistake. Didn’t mean to do it. Wasn’t intentional.”
In his video, Eyman walks into the store and talks to the manager, who tells him he cannot film there. Eyman asks whether he can either pay for or return the chair. The manager tells Eyman no, that the matter is being handled by the Lacey Police Department.
“This is where we’re at,” Eyman tells the camera in the Office Depot parking lot. “The theater of the absurd.”
At the police station, Eyman sits in the chair in the lobby waiting for detectives, who eventually have him leave the chair there to be logged as evidence. He tells them he is “sorry for the hassle” and calls it a “just a big screw-up.”
“At the end of the day, it was my screw-up. At the end of the day, I will do everything I can to try and make sure it’s right,” Eyman tells the camera after leaving the police station. “But at this point, my priority is, I want a chair.”
He returns to the same Office Depot and buys a new chair, paying an additional $12 to have it assembled. But he says he hopes to eventually get the original chair back “because it has a quite a storied history to it.”
The manager at Office Depot declined to comment Thursday on the matter.
After the security footage of Eyman taking the chair was released, Eyman’s attorneys issued a news release and statement from their client, contending the episode was an honest mistake caused partly by Eyman receiving a phone call that distracted him after he returned to the store to pay for merchandise and services.
“I did not, shortly after giving legislative testimony in Olympia, walk into an Office Depot in Lacey wearing a bright red ‘Let The Voters Decide’ T-shirt, smile for the cameras, and steal a $70 chair just moments before spending $300 on two printers and after getting some life-changing good news,” Eyman said in the statement issued by the Puget Law Group. “The reason that doesn’t make any sense is because it doesn’t make any sense. It’s ridiculous, it’s insane, it’s completely unbelievable.”
Lacey City Prosecutor Joseph Svoboda filed one count of theft against Eyman on Tuesday in Thurston County District Court. The offense, a gross misdemeanor, carries a maximum of 364 days in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
Lacey police referred the allegation to prosecutors last week after Office Depot employees noticed a display chair missing from the store’s entryway, reviewed surveillance video, recognized Eyman and called the police.
The video shows Eyman looking around and circling the store’s lobby before walking through the store’s anti-theft devices into the entry vestibule. There he can be seen sitting, reclining and spinning around three times in a rolling chair before standing up and wheeling it out of the store.
About a minute later, Eyman returned to the store, where he printed and scanned some documents, exchanged a printer and bought two new ones for $249, according to the police report.