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Homeless Pennsylvania Man Charged With Felony Theft for Underpaying 43 Cents for a Soda

A homeless Pennsylvania man is facing a charge of felony theft and a prison sentence of up to seven years in prison if he is convicted for a 43-cent underpayment for a soda at a gas station.

Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images

Last month, Joseph Sobolewski grabbed a bottle of Mountain Dew out of a cooler, dropped $2.00 on the counter, and walked out of the store. He had assumed that the soft drink cost $1.50, as there was a 2-for-$3 sale. He was wrong. The clerk followed Sobolewski outside, told him he had not paid enough, and demanded an additional $.43. When Sobolewskli refused, got into his car, and drove away, the attendant called the police.

“His situation highlights several serious problems in the criminal justice system, according to reform advocates: police pushing minor matters into criminal courts; magisterial district judges setting impossible high bonds; and the state’s ‘three strikes’ law’ for retail theft that doesn’t consider the value of the item in the third arrest,” Penn-Live Patriot-News noted on Monday.

“For Sobolewski, 38, it’s unclear whether the situation even fits the elements of the state’s law against retail theft,” the outlet explained. “Prosecutors will have to prove this wasn’t a misunderstanding and that he intentionally deprived the store of the full value of the drink. Also unclear is why the employee at the Exxon at 3298 Susquehanna Trail in Duncannon wanted to press charges over such a small amount. The clerk confirmed to police that Sobolewski put $2 on the counter, then she followed him outside and told him he didn’t pay enough. Sobolewski responded that he did, then drove away, according to court records. The convenience store manager, who also confirmed to police that Sobolewski ‘threw $2 onto the checkout counter,’ declined to comment Friday when PennLive asked why they wanted to handle this situation in a criminal court.”

Sobolewski was also denied bail because he has no money to post bond.

“A $50,000 cash bond for a homeless person who earns about $5,000 per year is an impossible amount, which ensured he would remain behind bars. He spent seven days locked up before his public defender convinced a different judge to intervene. His attorney declined to comment for this story,” Penn-Live Patriot-News added.

To read more about this unnerving miscarriage of justice, please click here.



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