G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.
Handwriting analysis adds another layer of intrigue to the story of a man accused of leaving a racist message on a receipt at a Tennessee restaurant last month.
Toni Christina Jenkins, a server at a Red Lobster in Franklin, Tennessee, posted a picture on her Facebook page of a receipt with the word “none” written in the area usually reserved for a tip. Below that, the word “Nigger” was scrawled.
The receipt clearly showed the name of the customer, Devin Barnes, who is white. Jenkins, who is black, said that she was not aware that Barnes’ name was shown on the receipt and posted it online to make a point about racism, not to target Barnes.
But Barnes, 21, denied writing the derogatory word on the receipt.
“I do not approve of the use of that type of talk, not now or ever,” Barnes wrote in a note shortly after the incident.
He said that while he and his wife were dining at the restaurant something came up causing the couple to request having their order boxed up “to go”. He said that nothing was wrong with the service provided by Jenkins and that she was very nice.
Barnes acknowledges that he left Jenkins no tip and only wrote the word “none” and signed his name to the receipt. But he maintained that he didn’t write the racist word.
“I’m not going to point the finger at nobody. I know for a fact me and my wife didn’t do it,” Barnes told Nashville’s NBC affiliate WSMV.
The story went viral. The New York Daily News, Gawker, Salon, the Huffington Post, the Grio, and many other outlets reported Jenkins’ racist encounter. The 19 year-old Belmont University nursing student received an outpouring of support including a ‘tip’ of almost $11,000 from an online fundraising effort called ‘Tips for Toni’.
Jenkins also received criticism from those who claimed she fabricated the story.
Barnes said that he received threats.
“It’s been horrific. I mean, I just have been getting all these threats and everything,” Barnes told WSMV.
Now, one handwriting analyst has determined that it’s unlikely Barnes wrote the word.
Barnes’ attorney and pastor, Richard Dugger, hired Thomas Vastrick, an independent handwriting expert who has worked as a specialist for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, to compare the receipt to writing samples provided by Barnes and his wife.
Dugger shared his results with me.
Vastrick determined that it was “more likely than not” that whoever wrote “none” was not the same person who wrote the racist word:
“There is evidence to indicate that Devin Barnes (K-1) did not write the Total entry on Exhibit Q-1. No significant handwriting characteristic similarities were noted between the questioned Total entry on Exhibit Q-1 and a submitted known Devin Barnes (K-1) specimen.”
Vastrick noted in his analysis that one segment of the questioned entry “bears evidence of either hesitation or pen lift and replacement.”
I reached out to Vastrick for more clarification. He responded: “I had the advantage in this examination of having the same letter twice (g). It was noted that both were written rapidly and the design features were consistent between them. This provided significant evidence that, at the very least, this portion of the questioned entry was written in the person’s normal handwriting and they were characteristically different from that of the Barnes’ writings.”
Vastrick determined that Barnes’ wife also likely did not scribble the questionable word.
The website Addictinginfo.org helped raise nearly $11,000 for Jenkins.
“[We] thought it might be nice to see if we could get Christina the tip she was denied while sending a big “Screw You!” to the kind of lowlifes that find this sort racist slur funny,” wrote Addictinginfo’s Justin Rosario.
Jenkins purchased a car with the windfall.
The news of Jenkins’ large endowment was also reported by several news outlets. Gawker again covered the story. HuffPo as well. ABC News reported on the story. UPI. Jenkins also appeared on the popular Tom Joyner radio show to discuss her good fortune. None of those outlets even questioned whether it was possible that Jenkins had fabricated the story. Not that the handwriting analysis is definitive proof that she did, but it is a substantive fact in the story. None of those outlets mentioned the handwriting analysis.
While Jenkins received support from many after posting the picture of the receipt, others quickly questioned whether she was being truthful.
Some internet users argued that the handwriting of the two words attributed to Barnes appeared not to be written in the same style.
Though both of the words allegedly written by Barnes began with “n”, one was capitalized while the other was not, internet sleuths pointed out. Many saw that as evidence that Jenkins wrote the word herself.
Total Expose Public Relations which represents Jenkins said that they have no comment on the handwriting analysis. Jenkins denied writing on the receipt herself, both before and after the analysis was conducted.
“I could never do something so hateful or hurtful and preposterous,” Jenkins told AddictingInfo in an interview.
Dugger told me in an interview last month that the Red Lobster restaurant offered his client a free meal after the incident. The offer was denied and Dugger has threatened further legal action. Dugger also told me that if someone falsely accuses another person of racism them that’s racism itself.
Jenkins was suspended with pay from Red Lobster shortly after posting the picture of the receipt, which is against company policy. Jenkins was reinstated before missing a scheduled shift.
Mike Bernstein, director of media and communications for Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Red Lobster, told me in an email last month before the latest development that the company had “extended [Jenkins] a high degree of respect and caring for what has happened.”
“No one should have to endure what our employee went through last weekend,” said Bernstein at the time.
Reached after the handwriting analysis results Bernstein said the company was standing by their position on the matter.
Commentary: If Devin Barnes wrote “Nigger” on that receipt then Bernstein has absolutely taken the correct stance. I’m #1 advocate for company’s backing up their employees. But employees aren’t always in the right, and there have been way too many hoaxes, not only of restaurant receipts but also in other arenas, for a person’s word to be taken immediately as Gospel in these matters. But Red Lobster did make the correct business decision by immediately throwing Barnes under the bus. The company can’t alienate its white customer base. Whites don’t care enough about whether or not Barnes was mistreated to put up much of a fight. But if Jenkins was mistreated — and the outrage-bots would think she was mistreated if she was fired regardless of if she wrote the word in her own hand or not — they’d absolutely lose customers. Even if they did the right thing by firing Jenkins (if she wrote the word), the incident would go in the company’s “permanent racism file”. The incident would sit back there in the recesses of the collective customers’ minds and be drawn out if another sketchy incident did in fact occur down the road.
Vastrick was hired by Dugger to conduct this analysis. So it would only be fair to say that the results aren’t definitive. But the analysis is something that Jenkins and Red Lobster should have to contend with, if Barnes wants to take legal action.