It was Blue Bell that Lenise Martin came after, a video shows. In a store ice cream aisle, he peeled back the lid, took two licks and stuck his finger in before returning the container to the shelf in a Louisiana store.
The incident led to Martin’s Saturday arrest and triggered disgust similar to the fallout of another viral video: a Texas juvenile licking ice cream in a store and walking away, shocking millions and triggering a manhunt.
However, that incident is entirely different from Martin’s, he told The Washington Post on Tuesday, after he was released from jail, and the video making the rounds on news sites and local TV has ruined his reputation — and doesn’t tell the full story.
“I never put the ice cream in their freezer,” Martin, 36, said.
The ice cream was his, Martin said, with a receipt provided to The Post. He said he already paid for it when he was told by a store clerk he could get a discount on another tub of ice cream. Martin went back to the freezer but did not see one he liked, he said. But his friend mentioned the Texas video as a joke.
Martin thought it would be funny to act as if he were putting the ice cream back after he licks it. In the video posted to social media, Martin is already at the freezer, ice cream in hand, and licks it before he looks around with a jokey slyness. Then he licks it again and appears to return it to the freezer.
But that is when the viral video of him stops — edited by Martin to sell his joke, he said. In the uncut video provided to The Post, Martin already has the ice cream before he opens the freezer. In the final moment, he moves his hand away from the freezer without placing it back.
Cmdr. Lonny Cavalier, the spokesman for the Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office, said Martin was charged with criminal mischief and unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity.
He acknowledged that Martin paid for the ice cream but disputes his version of events at the Big B’s store in Belle Rose, a small town west of New Orleans.
Cavalier said the office believes Martin licked the ice cream before, not after, paying for it. “At that point he is not the owner of the product,” he told The Post.
Evidence of that sequence came from the video Martin recorded and taken by investigators, Cavalier said, but he declined to provide metadata information that would show a time before 1:22 p.m. and 53 seconds shown on Martin’s receipt. He also said the store employee said Martin left the store after purchasing the ice cream.
In comments to The New York Times, Cavalier said there is video surveillance in the store that recorded Martin. He did not mention those cameras when asked to corroborate the Sheriff’s Office version of events.
Matt Walters, the owner of the Big B’s store, could not be reached for comment after calls to two stores he owns.
Cavalier said Martin told authorities that he intentionally went viral because “he wanted to be famous.” Martin disputed that.
“I got kids. I don’t have time to go to jail. ... Who would say that?” Martin asked rhetorically. “That’s the craziest part. It’s definitely a lie.”
Ironically, Martin said, he believed the Sheriff’s Office intended to have notoriety from the arrest. He said various deputies and other officers came through the jail to gawk at the infamous overnight celebrity. Martin said he felt like he was “part of a museum exhibit.”
The parish jail warden, Roland Rodrigue, did not return a request for comment.
Martin, a DJ who plays for weddings, clubs and other venues, said he has lost thousands of dollars in deposits after the video went viral.
Franz Borghardt, a Louisiana defense attorney who is not representing Martin, said Tuesday that the state law prohibiting posting content of a crime is not commonly used.
“The law is overly broad and constitutionally deficient,” Borghardt told The Post. “In this instance, if he bought (the ice cream), and this was done for creating content, you have a First Amendment free-speech issue.”
Tyler Cavalier, a spokesman for the Assumption Parish District Attorney’s Office and the son of Lonny Cavalier, told The Times on Monday that the office had not received information on the case and would not comment on the charges.
The video allegedly showing Martin was one of at least three prominent cases of someone recording themselves licking Blue Bell ice cream and then posting a video to social media, prompting a cringe-inducing viral moment.
Lufkin, Texas, police identified a juvenile in the original video, the East Texas department said Friday, but declined to charge her with an adult crime and did not release her name because she is under 17. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department will handle the case, the department said.
Blue Bell identified the Walmart where the juvenile licked a half-gallon tub of Tin Roof ice cream in what the confection company called a “malicious act of food tampering,” spokeswoman Jenny Van Dorf said in a statement. The company thinks it found the compromised ice cream but removed all half-gallon Tin Roof products from the store, she said.
“We are always looking for ways to improve, including looking at methods within our manufacturing process to add additional protection to the carton,” Van Dorf said.
She did not say whether the company had information about the incident involving Martin.
In another incident, self-described model and actress Shelley Golden posted a video of her walking into a store and licking Blue Bell ice cream. She appeared to later delete the video from Instagram account after intense scrutiny and millions of views.
In a Thursday tweet, Golden said she bought and took home the ice cream. “No one was harmed or affected when I made the video,” Golden said. “The whole thing was staged.” She did not return a request for comment.
Saliva can pose serious health risks. Clinicians say it may contain rhinovirus and the flu, among other viruses and bacteria, according to the Cleveland Clinic. An infectious-disease specialist told The New York Times that the ice cream’s low temperature and sugar content could potentially reduce the infectious risk in this particular instance.
In 2015, three deaths linked to a listeria outbreak in Blue Bell ice cream led to a full product recall.