Citing Les Miserables, Israeli Judge Orders Release of Cookie-stealing Homeless Man

Judge cites the novel's 'indictment of society's attitude toward the weak' and frees the man in his 20's, who was arrested after tasking shelter in a kindergarten classroom.

A homeless person lays on a dirty stone step in Israel.
Olivier Fitoussi

A Petah Tikvah judge has ordered the release of a twice arrested homeless man in his '20's, charged with breaking-and-entering and theft for taking shelter in a kindergarten classroom and consuming a few cookies while he was there.

The man had been detained last Thursday, and sent to house arrest at a Hod Hasharon shelter, on charges of theft, conspiracy to commit a crime, breaking and entering, damage to property and interfering with investigative processes.  

He was arrested anew the next day when police sent to check on the suspect found he wasn't there. He had gone to use a bathroom at a nearby supermarket as the shelter lacked such facilities. The police waited there and arrested him again.

The suspect spent the night in Hadarim Prison and was released on Saturday.

During questioning the man confessed to the break-ins and said: “I live from one shelter to the next, every two days I look for a different shelter to sleep in. I have no home. Unfortunately, most of the time I eat from garbage cans, garbage rooms and in parking lots. I entered the kindergarten against my will.

"I entered through the door, took four muffins from the refrigerator, which you found on me today, a quarter of a loaf of bread and half a container of hummus, that’s what I ate today, and then I left the place.”

Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court Judge Oded Moreno ordered his release, writing in his decision: 

“True, breaking into a building is serious At the same time, I believe that this is a case of ‘Les Miserables’ - a book that became an indictment against society’s attitude towards the weak.” 

“Since the court believes that this is really an exceptional case, I found no reason to extend the suspect’s detention since I don’t believe that the suspect can interfere with investigative activities.”

Attorney Amit Ferrante of the Public Defender’s Office said his client was “being persecuted, it’s bizarre to detain a young homeless man although they knew from the start that he stole only cookies and did no damage.

"Why ‘conspiracy to commit a crime’? This is a person who should be helped, not arrested.”

Another public defender, Attorney Mohammed Raad added: 

“After meeting with the client I discovered the sad picture - they forgot that the shelter has no bathroom, and he forgot to tell the judge that that’s why he went to the nearby supermarket. I tried to convince the investigator not to order his arrest, because he is ill."