When Joseph Sobolewski got thirsty last month, he saw a sign in a nearby convenience store that was advertising two 20-ounce Mountain Dew bottles for $3. Sobolewksi only wanted one bottle, so he grabbed it, threw down two $1 bills — thinking he’d left a tip — and walked out of the store. Now he’s facing 7 years in prison over it.
Because Sobolewski didn’t realize that the sale price only applied to the two-bottle deal, instead of leaving a tip like he thought, he was actually short. A single bottle costs $2.29 and with tax applied, he was actually $0.43 short.
Instead of simply realizing the error and chalking it up to a harmless mistake, the store called the police — over 43 cents. According to police, the store clerk followed Sobolewski out of the store and told him that $2.00 was not enough, but when he did the math for a $1.50 soda, it was more than enough, so he drove off.
How it escalated to the next level of police involvement is unclear as the clerk told police that Sobelewski “threw $2 onto the checkout counter.” And, by his math, he actually tipped the clerk.
When police caught up to Sobolewski, instead of simply asking him for two quarters to pay his tab, they arrested him on felony theft charges and locked him in a cage because the store clerk wanted him to be punished. According to Pennsylvania State police spokeswoman Megan Ammerman, troopers “cannot decide to not charge someone for a criminal case, only victims of certain crimes can decline charges. If we are called to an incident involving a crime we follow and enforce the PA Crimes Code.”
After he was arrested and thrown in a cage, to top it off, they set his bail at a $50,000 cash-only bond, meaning he will sit in that cage until his trial in November as he is unable to pay for it.