Roman Ostriakov, 36, couldn’t afford anything to eat, so he stole less than $5 worth of cheese and sausage from a supermarket in Genoa, Italy, in 2011. He was caught, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to pay a fine of 100 euros and serve six months in prison. An appeals court upheld the decision.
This week, Ostriakov’s fate changed. Italy’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Cassation, issued a broad ruling that the theft of essential sustenance out of dire necessity is not a crime — even though Ostriakov had originally tried to overturn the conviction as an “attempted” theft, since he never made it out of the store with food, rather than argue that he had been in the right all along.