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BREAD SQUEEZER IS TOAST AFTER COURTROOM VERDICT

A man accused of squishing baked goods on a store's shelves -- and costing the supermarket serious dough -- was convicted Thursday.

Samuel G. Feldman, 37, of suburban Philadelphia, had been charged with damaging up to $8,000 worth of baked goods over three years, including 175 bags of bagels, 227 bags of potato dinner rolls and 3,087 bags of bread.

A Bucks County judge found him guilty of two counts of criminal mischief for damaging less than $1,000 worth of cookies and bread. He faces up to a $1,000 fine.

During the trial, the jurors -- as well as attorneys, the judge and sometimes the defendant himself -- had to stifle laughter at times as a local bread distributor testified that handprints and finger marks were found on $7,100 worth of his merchandise at the Giant Food market in Yardley.

"Squeezed and poked," said Thomas Gibney, a distributor for Bestfoods Baking Co., which makes Freihofer's, Arnold and Thomas' baked goods.

Gibney, a prosecution witness, remained straight-faced throughout the trial, even when defense attorney Ellis Klein put three loaves of fresh bread in front of him and asked him to do the unthinkable:

"May I ask you to make that bread look like the way the crushed bread looked?" Klein asked Gibney. He did.

Prosecutors said the case was anything but funny, saying Feldman was behind a spree of baked-goods sabotage in Lower Bucks County that in one supermarket left up to $8,000 in bread and cookies damaged beyond hope of being sold.

"This is a serious case," said Ted Fritsch, chief prosecutor. "This is a case where we're dealing with destructive behavior -- certainly unsanitary behavior."

Besides testimony from cookie and bread distributors who say that Feldman is the man responsible for the damage, they also presented videotapes that allegedly caught Feldman in the act.

Klein argued that his client is no different from the average fussy shopper who prods loaves of bread in search of the freshest one.

Though Feldman is shown in the videos, Klein said, he is shown handling only seven loaves. It is unfair, he argued, to conclude from those seven loaves that Feldman was responsible for the damage.

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