Prosecutors Drop Felony Charge Against Man Accused Of 43 Cent Soda Theft

Joseph Sobolewski faced up to seven years in prison after paying $2 for a Mountain Dew that cost $2.29 plus tax.

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have dropped felony charges against a homeless man accused of paying 43 cents too little for a bottle of Mountain Dew.

The district attorney’s office in Perry County dropped a theft charge against Joseph Sobolewski, 38, earlier this month and downgraded another charge against him after PennLive first reported on the incident. Sobolewski allegedly went into a convenience store to buy a bottle of soda in August. The advertised price was two bottles for $3; the man paid $2 for one bottle and walked out.

The price for a single bottle, however, was $2.29 plus tax, meaning he was 43 cents short. A store employee called the police, and Sobolewski was arrested.

Pennsylvania has a “three strikes” law when it comes to retail theft. He had been arrested and convicted twice before, meaning the third instance, with the soda, resulted in an immediate felony charge. The law doesn’t take into account the value of a third theft, and Sobolewski was arrested and jailed on a $50,000 cash-only bond.

He spent seven days locked up and faced seven years in prison because of the three-strikes law, although his public defender was able to argue for his release while the case was decided.

“That’s great news,” Sobolewski told PennLive this week of the dropped charge. “I feel I was treated unequally because I had a record.”

He added to the news outlet that he was “angry” the 43 cent difference resulted in a seven-day jail stay.

PennLive added that Perry County District Attorney Andrew Bender is running to become a judge in the district next month. He declined to answer the newspaper’s calls.