Italian man cleared of aubergine theft after nine-year legal battle

Italys highest appeal court acquits man originally jailed for five months after legal wrangle that cost at least 7,000

An Italian man has finally been acquitted of stealing an aubergine nine years after being charged, ending a legal wrangle that cost taxpayers thousands.

The man, then 49, had the aubergine in his bucket when police caught him trying to escape through a privately owned field near Lecce, in the southern region of Puglia, in 2009.

While being taken away, he pleaded with the police that he had tried to steal it because he was unemployed and desperate to feed his child.

However, the courts initially showed no mercy, sentencing him to five months in prison and ordering him to pay a 500 (440) fine. That punishment was reduced on appeal to two months in jail and 120.

The mans legal counsel was still not satisfied and took the case to the court of cassation in Rome, Italys highest appeals court, where the defendant was acquitted nearly a decade after he was arrested.

The court criticised the lower courts in Lecce for not taking into account the extreme weakness of the prosecutions case given the mans financial situation.

La Repubblica newspaper quoted the ruling as saying that the man was definitely acting to satisfy the hunger of his family … there are grounds for justification.

The court also lamented the amount of public money spent on the case, with 7,000-8,000 going towards legal fees as the man was too poor to pay for his own defence, La Repubblica reported.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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