Florida State running back James Wilder Jr.’s Sunday night arrest in Tampa on a warrant charging him with driving without a valid license was called into question Monday when state motor vehicle officials maintained Wilder’s license was and is valid.
Wilder, 22, of Tampa, was taken into custody at 7:21 p.m. at Busch Boulevard and North Renfrew Place, according to jail records. He was released just after midnight Monday on $1,000 bail, records say.
Tampa police said Wilder’s license was suspended in November because he had failed to show proof of insurance during a previous traffic stop. He was sent a notice that his license would be suspended if he did not provide proof, police said.
Tampa police issued a citation to Wilder on March 1 when an officer stopped the football player’s 2010 Chevrolet Camaro at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and North Taliaferro Avenue, according to the report. During the stop, a check by the officer found that Wilder’s license had not been reinstated and he was given a citation and told he needed to set a court date within 10 days.
Apparently Wilder provided proof to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and his license was re-instated on March 12, though he never let the court know and the warrant was issued for his arrest.
That’s what appeared to have happened, said John Lucas, spokesman for the state department on Monday afternoon. He provided a copy of Wilder’s driving record, which showed that as of Monday afternoon, his license was valid.
Wilder could not be reached for comment Monday. His driving record shows several prior traffic infractions, including running a red light, speeding, playing music too loud and not wearing a seat belt.
Wilder released a statement about the driving incident on Monday afternoon, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
“Last night in my hometown of Tampa, Florida, I was pulled over by an officer and arrested on a warrant for missing a court date for driving with a suspended license.
“My license had been suspended in Florida while I was training in California for the NFL Combine. Several weeks ago, when I returned home, my license was reinstated, but I did miss a mandatory court date.
“The police officers were all professional and I apologized to them for my actions. There is really no excuse for missing court dates,” the Wilder statement said.
“I have good people in my life who always tell me to watch what I do because I am in the public eye, and because kids look up to me. I really do want to be the kind of person who makes people proud. I am not proud of myself when I make mistakes like this.
“I’ve seen articles today about other mistakes I have made in my life. ... I know there are no excuses for those things, even though for the longest time I told myself they were small things and not a big deal. But they are a big deal, because I am a better person than that.
“Today I am celebrating my birthday with family and friends. I’m another year older, and another year wiser. I also know there are lots of people waiting for me to prove that.
“I am thankful for all that God has blessed me with in my life,” the statement said.
Wilder, who decided to become eligible for the NFL draft after his junior year, worked out privately for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday. He is the son of the Bucs’ all-time leading rusher.
“The(y) got my pops pic here in the hallway, I’m just tryin to keep the legacy of the name Wilder goin!!!!” Wilder Jr. tweeted after his Bucs workout. On Monday, which was his 22nd birthday, Wilder tweeted thanks to everyone who wished him a happy day, but did not mention the traffic stop and short stay at the jail.
“Blessed to be able to live to see my 22nd birthday today,” he tweeted. “Gotta thank my GOD on the way up!!!”
In January 2013, Wilder was arrested in Leon County after he failed to make a court appearance on a charge of driving with a suspended license. Wilder also was briefly jailed in Leon in June 2012 after testing positive for alcohol, which was within legal parameters, while taking part in a work-day program. The work-day program resulted from a plea agreement after being charged with resisting arrest without violence in February 2012.
In that case, Leon deputies went to arrest a woman for missing a court appearance when Wilder stepped between a deputy and the woman, an arrest report said.
Wilder Jr., who is 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, ran for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns over three years with the Seminoles. He previously played at Tampa’s Plant High School, helping lead the Panthers to a state title.