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Prison for Stealing 43-Cents?

Prison for Stealing 43-Cents?
September 24
03:52 2021

Is the third time the charm?

Or is it three strikes and you’re out?

By John Christian Hopkins

Joseph Sobolewski, of Perry Scott, Pa., hopes it’s not the latter. Or he could end up spending seven years behind bars!

The public can breathe easier knowing the police have arrested Sobolewski – and it doesn’t look like he’s going to make bail.

Oh, the hardened criminal may not be Public Enemy No. 1, but a crime is a crime whether you steal $1 million or one thin dime.

In Sobolewski’s case it was four thin dimes and three pennies.

That’s right, a dispute over 43-cents could send Sobolewski to prison for seven years.

That might sound harsh, but the law is the law. And under Pennsylvania’s three-strike law for retail theft the crime was Sobolewski’s third strike.

That’s because more than a decade ago he once filled his gas tank and drove off without paying and, in 2011, he tried to steal a $40 pair of shoes from K-Mart.

And this time?

Sobolewski was thirsty and decided to do the Dew. Spotting a sign offering two Mountain Dews for $3 dollars. Using math skills he probably learned in school, Sobolewski assumed if two sodas were available for $3 dollars, then one must be half that – or $1.50.

Sobolewski paid for his drink ($2 dollars) and left the store. However, the clerk quickly realized a mistake had been made. While the sale was two sodas for $3 dollars, a single Mountain Dew cost $2.29. The clerk rushed outside and confronted Sobolewski, demanding 43 more cents.

After a brief argument Sobolewski drove off. But he was soon tracked down by the state police. A magistrate judge set bond at $50,000! (Yes, a $50,000 bond over a 43-cent dispute.)

Advocates pushing for reforms to the criminal codes say this case highlights three of the major problems with the three-strike retail theft law: police sending minor offenses into criminal court, judge magistrates setting exorbitant bails and no consideration of the amount of the crime.

Jailing people for such minor offenses is basically charging them for being poor, said Nyssa Taylor of the Philadelphia ACLU.

This case needs to be looked into, according to Brandon Flood, head of the state’s parole board.

“But, what you can’t do is set a high bail to keep people incarcerated,” Flood said.

Sobolewski’s next court hearing is scheduled for November.

Prison for Stealing 43-Cents? - overview

Summary: Prison for Stealing 43-Cents?

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