Charges dropped against USC journalism students accused of stealing NFL jerseys

Eric Lambkins II and Jude Ocañas
Eric Lambkins II, left, and Jude Ocañas, who were covering the NFL Draft in Kansas City in April for USC’s student-run news outlet, were accused of stealing three jerseys. Court records show the charges have been dropped.
(Alan Mittelstaedt)
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Missouri prosecutors dropped criminal charges against two USC journalism students accused of pilfering more than $1,000 worth of NFL Draft jerseys, according to court records and an attorney for one of the students.

Eric Lambkins II and Jude Ocañas, students at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, were covering the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City, Mo., in April for the school’s student-run multiplatform news outlet known as Annenberg Media. Both were arrested on the plane back to Los Angeles when they were accused of stealing three jerseys.

Lambkins and his attorney confirmed to The Times that burglary, trespassing and theft charges against him and Ocañas were dropped a month ago, on Aug. 11. Lambkins said he doesn’t know why prosecutors dropped the charges except that the students offered to work with their school to produce a video called “Credentials Granted” about the “dos and don’ts of being a sports reporter.”


The two will also perform 40 hours of community service in the Los Angeles area.

The Jackson County district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A screen shot of court records shows the charges were dropped but doesn’t offer any further details. USC did not comment on the situation.

“I feel as though I can begin to pick up the pieces of my reputation that has been shattered and rebuild what I know I have been placed on this Earth to do, which is to tell stories,” Lambkins said. “I’m just extremely thankful to the Jackson County prosecutor that she decided to dismiss the charges.”

Video surveillance showed Lambkins and Ocañas around 1:20 a.m. on April 28 entering areas connected to the draft that they did not have access to, according to the Kansas City Police Department.

They entered a room with a bag and came out with the bag looking “fuller,” police said.

Three jerseys had been taken from the room, according to the NFL. The items were a San Francisco 49ers jersey, a Dallas Cowboys jersey and a Minnesota Vikings jersey. They all had no names printed on them and the number “1” on the backs.

“These jerseys are used to give to players selected in the first round of the NFL draft and have a very sentimental meaning,” Kansas City police Det. Craig Leach wrote in a report.

Lambkins is a graduate student at USC and a Los Angeles native. He is an Army veteran and worked for two years covering sports for the Culver City Observer and Good News Radio.


Ocañas is an undergraduate journalism major.

“It was an extremely embarrassing and traumatic situation,” he said. “It’s just something I never envisioned for myself.”