Texas Man Gets 50 Years For Stealing Baby-Back Ribs

Baby-Back Ribs

Apparently, they take their ribs quite seriously in Texas:

All Willie Smith Ward wanted was his baby-back ribs, but it cost him 50 years in prison.

His problems started when he tucked a large rack under his shirt and tried to leave the H-E-B store at 1102 Speight Ave. without paying in September 2011.

A jury in Waco’s 19th State District Court also didn’t like the 43-year-old Ward’s previous five felony and four misdemeanor convictions and recommended that Ward be sentenced to 50 years in prison as a habitual criminal.

Jurors took two minutes Wednesday to convict Ward on robbery charges and about an hour to decide his punishment.

Ward’s theft of the $35 rack of pork ribs turned into a robbery when he threatened a grocery store employee who saw the huge bulge under Ward’s shirt and tried to stop him in the parking lot.

“This verdict shows that the citizens of this county will not tolerate a continued disrespect and disregard for other people and their property,” said Assistant District Attorney J.R. Vicha, who prosecuted Ward with Chris Bullajian. “People who choose to do so will be dealt with seriously and appropriately.”


Ward has previous felony convictions for burglary, attempted robbery, aggravated assault, leaving the scene of an accident and possession of cocaine and four misdemeanor convictions, including two thefts.

A serious repeat criminal, obviously, but clearly the dude was just hungry for some ribs.

H/T: Gawker

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Franklin says:

    This is like the make-up call in sports. He really should have got the 50 years for the previous felonies.

  2. MikeSJ says:

    50 years? OK, we can all agree (most of us at least) that sentance is excessive…but the question remains – what do you do with people like this?

    Clearly when he isn’t in jail he is going to be committing serious crimes.

    Maybe fence off a state like Montana or some such no one is going to miss and start shipping characters like this there?

  3. Rafer Janders says:

    Forget it, Jake. I’s Texas.

  4. Red Queen Texas says:

    What? He dared eat?

    Off with his head!

  5. JKB says:

    I seem to remember way back when 3-strikes was a new law concept, a guy got 20 years for stealing a slice of pizza off a kid’s plate.

    Theft is one thing but robbery is another. As the story above states, he made it robbery when the threatened the employee who challenged him. Should have just run.

  6. JKB says:


    Oh, yeah, and that was in liberal California where they guy got 20 years for robbing a slice of pizza.

  7. wr says:

    So the bold and brilliant citizens of Texas will spend millions of dollars to warehouse this guy for the rest of his life, and they’ll pay for it by cutting funds for education and health care. Brilliant all around.

  8. Mark says:

    @MikeSJ: @MikeSJ:

    You mean Australia? I hear there is good opera and snorkeling there.

  9. Caj says:

    Oh for Gods sake! Don’t mess with Texas! Someone needs to give Texans a lesson on what common sense is all about! Still, you’ve got one dumb governor in Rick Perry so I assume anything goes there! Don’t take my gun or my ribs by all accounts! The place is nuts!

  10. edmondo says:

    He should have stolen a few hundred million from the federal government instead. Then they would have made him governor of Florida.

  11. bill says:

    @wr: maybe not millions, they coulda just shot him- that would have been nice. of course Texas doesn’t really care about your “views”, maybe that’s why they’re so successful?! freeze in the dark, as i always say.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:


    So the bold and brilliant citizens of Texas will spend millions of dollars to warehouse this guy for the rest of his life,

    According to this, at a cost in today’s dollars of $21,348.72, which over 50 years adds up to a grand total of $1,067,436.08.

    For a $35 rack of ribs.

    If I lived in Texas? I would try and make that county pay the cost of his incarceration. My tax dollars have better things to do.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:


    maybe that’s why they’re so successful?!

    A comedic voice from the armpit of the world. Live near any fertilizer plants bill? How about any refineries? Would you even be able to know what you lived near?

  14. wr says:

    @bill: “of course Texas doesn’t really care about your “views”, maybe that’s why they’re so successful?! ”

    Of course Texas is struggling with a massive budget deficit, the largest number of citizens without health insurance, and an educational system to make Alabama look good, while California is running a surplus and already helping its citizens get surprisingly low cost health insurance.

    Oh, but I guess no one in Texas has to worry about freezing. They can keep warm from the fires of exploding industrial plants in their residential neighborhoods, since the state has decided that inspections equal socialism.

  15. Alp says:

    If you do not like the way Texas treats
    habitual criminals then don’t come to
    Texas or live here!I do agree that paying
    for 50 years in prison is far too excessive.
    We should instead jail him in the county,
    and put him to work every day cleaning
    roads, working on county labor projects,
    cleaning parks, and other hard labor jobs.
    As we should do with all of these kinds
    of criminals.
    They should not be housed and fed for free!!
    If you super liberals don’t like this State, then
    move somewhere else. To me, a criminal such as this should not have any civil rights, because
    he does not respect the rights or others or
    the LAW!

  16. Amos Jones says:

    2 days in jail would be more befitting of the crime. 50 years for a $35 theft? Bizarre, but that’s Texas for you, their justice system is an embarrassment to the whole country.

  17. Amos Jones says:

    @Alp: Trust me, you couldn’t pay me to go back to Texas.

  18. Davebo says:


    So let me see. What you’re saying is “Yes, that sentence is batshit crazy… BUT GET OFF MY LAWN!!”

    Motorola is opening a new plant in Texas that will be the first US manufacturing center for smart phones and will provide approximately 20,000 new jobs in the state.

    But hey, a lot of Motorola execs have IQ’s above their underwear size so let’s tell them to take that plant and shove it!

    It’ll suck for those 20,000 workers but at least you’ll feel vindicated right Alp?

  19. Caj says:

    To think I lived in Texas for four years and never knew just how crazy that state was!! Still, I moved to Florida and this place is just as bad in many ways! Wherever there’s a Republican Governor we see idiocy! Might be time to move on again?

  20. Dave says:

    “To think I lived in Texas for four years and never knew just how crazy that state was!!”

    So what are you, Caj, blind? An idiot?

    Or maybe, just maybe, the reason you didn’t realize that Texas is crazy is because Texas isn’t crazy.

  21. al-Ameda says:

    Texas: Where they’ll warehouse the guy in prison at a cost of over $30,000 per year 50 years – for stealing a $35 rack of ribs. I’m sure they ran the cost benefit on this and decided that the state can afford it.

  22. Caj says:


    Oops my mistake. No your quite right Texas isn’t crazy it’s some of the people who live there that are crazy. Just didn’t know how many there were though!

  23. Jenos Idanian says:

    Texas didn’t make the key decisions here, Mr. Ward did. He chose to be a habitual criminal. He chose to continue stealing after (I’m sure) being warned by his parole officers and lawyers that one more crime would trigger the penalties. And he chose to threaten the employee who busted him.

    He made his choices. Poor ones, but his. I’m content to let him enjoy the consequences of his choices.

  24. bill says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: he probably won’t live that long, hate to burst your bubble. he was a 5 time loser- i’d have gone for he spare ribs at least.

    oh, from a northeastern rag!

    and to answer the q’s from that attempted dis, “neither”.

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