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BARTOW, Fla. -- A convenience store owner in Polk County, Fla. that was convicted of cheating by false pretenses when he sold bottled water intended for the free distribution to hurricane victims was freed from five years of probation when an appeals court ruled that no crime was committed, The Associated Press reported.
Last year, Salah Darwish was found guilty when he sold the water that was donated to a Hurricane Charley relief center in 2004. The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that because Darwish did not lie to officials about his intended use for the water, the criteria for the false pretenses were not met, according to the report.
The court told the AP that when picking up the water, Darwish joked with a firefighter and said "It's not like I'm going to sell it out of my store." The court added that the timing of Darwish's comment was vague and that prosecutors failed to prove that the statement prevented the firefighter from giving him the water. It also noted that Darwish was not required to state his use for the water, and did not at the time.
"In this case, we expect that many people would find Mr. Darwish's conduct to be offensive from an ethical point of view," the court wrote. "But the question before us is not one of morality."
Darwish's attorney, Jeff Holmes, told the AP that Darwish's actions were "wrong and reprehensible." He added "He acknowledged that, but he didn't commit a crime."