Absent-minded meat muncher John Richardson is not in jail tonight! This is because a jury believed that Richardson maybe did not mean to take a 99-cent sausage from a grocery store without paying for it, but simply forgot to pay for it. Forgetfulness is not yet a crime, so what else could the jury do?

The Spokesman-Review tells us that Richardson's sausage saga began one day last December, when he went to the Mitchell's IGA in Cheney, Washington and got himself a sausage at the self-serve counter. As he shopped for his peanut butter, jelly, salad-stuffed Hot Pockets and other items, he nibbled on his snack in full view of various store employees—almost like he wasn't trying to hide his intent to commit a crime, or something. At the check-out line, he paid for all of his groceries except for the sausage, which then led to some hard-ass managers following him and calling the cops. Richardson tried to pay for his sausage but was charged with shoplifting anyhow.

All the evidence pointed to Richardson's innocence, and now many townsfolk are all "what the fuck, a sausage, come on." Even the Spokesman-Review has abandoned objectivity in describing this "caper":

Five minutes would have been about the right time to devote to the case, start to finish. Instead, the taxpayers of Cheney paid for the full legal megillah: The officer who arrived, cuffed the protesting Richardson, and wrote a report in which he described the "stolen" property as a "bronze" German sausage; the prosecuting
attorney, who said Richardson's demeanor and a 12-year-old shoplifting charge on his record persuaded her to pursue the case; the public defender; the judge; the jury pool …

Cheney Municipal Prosecutor Julie McKay cites Richardson's uncooperative attitude when confronted by the accusatory store managers, and his refusal to pay the store owners a $200 civil fine for not-stealing their wares, as her reasons for pressing onward with her quest for justice. After all, you can't send the message that it's okay to eat the sausages of Cheney without paying for them, right? Today it's a sausage, tomorrow it's a turkey or a side of beef, or even a whole cow. And then what? A snow blower, or some other high-ticket item that Cheney will probably not be able to replace for a good long while, after spending so much money on John Richardson and his sausage of symbolism—the sausage of the slippery slope.

[Spokesman-Review, photo via Shutterstock.com]