A BOTTLE of soft drink worth $3.50 has cost Gilbert Andrew Purcell six months of freedom.
Eager to quench his thirst, the 28-year-old Rockhampton man entered the Shell Coles service station on Musgrave St about 6.30am on September 22 last year.
He walked to the drinks fridge, selected a bottle of Coke and stuffed it in his bag.
But 43-year-old shop assistant Stephen Mills wasn't fooled.
He approached Purcell and asked him if he was going to pay for the item. Purcell didn't reply and started to walk away.
Bravely, Mr Mills asked him again. The defendant then ran at Mr Mills swinging his fists.
He punched him in the face several times before fleeing the scene.
Mr Mills finished serving customers and then called police.
Police reviewed CCTV footage and later executed a search warrant at Purcell's home where they found clothes matching those worn by the offender.
Yesterday, Purcell pleaded guilty to one count of robbery with personal violence in the Rockhampton District Court.
Defence barrister Ross LoMonaco told the court his client suffered from schizophrenia and had previously been institutionalised.
However, he said Purcell understood what he did was wrong and he was remorseful.
The court heard Purcell had a problem with cannabis.
"Your history is starting to get pretty long," Judge Paul Smith said.
Judge Smith said while the victim's physical injuries were minor, he suffered significant psychological effects.
He sentenced Purcell to two and a half years jail and ordered him to pay $500 compensation to the victim.
He declared the six months Purcell has already served and released him on immediate parole.