A potentially lengthy state prison sentence for a Pennsylvania cancer patient who shoplifted a little over 100 dollars worth of items from a grocery store is drawing criticism – even from the state’s lieutenant governor.
Lebanon County Judge Samuel A. Kline sentenced Ashley Menser, 36, to a minimum of 10 months and a maximum of seven years behind bars on Jan. 22 after she pleaded guilty to shoplifting $109.63 worth of merchandise from a Weis Markets in 2018, a Lebanon County District Attorney press release provided to Oxygen.com stated.
Menser "stole makeup, hair dye, a candle and 'Super Skinny Serum' (a hair product),” according to the release.
Menser has advanced-stage ovarian cancer and requires surgery for her illness, according to local newspaper the Lebanon Daily News. She had an appointment scheduled for the same day as her sentencing, in which she was supposed to set up a surgery to prevent her cancer from spreading to her lymph nodes.
“I sat there and sat there and was like, ‘No, this can’t happen’,” Steve Via, Menser’s father, told the PA Post following his daughter's sentencing. “She must have this operation or she’s going to die.”
Records obtained by the outlet also note that Menser has post traumatic stress disorder and a history of substance use issues.
Kline also rejected a request by Menser’s lawyer to put Menser on house arrest and opted for prison time instead, citing the availability of medical treatment in state prison and Menser’s criminal record. She has 13 prior theft convictions as well as welfare fraud and endangering the welfare of children convictions, according to the district attorney’s office.
Menser’s prison sentence prompted Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to call for the Lebanon County Correctional Facility to release Menser so she can get surgery. He even offered to pay the money back to Weis Markets.
“Calling on Judge Kline to err on the side of mercy,” he tweeted.
The case has attracted national attention.
Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf defended the court’s decision and in that press release, obtained by Oxygen.com, noted "Our Lieutenant Governor found it appropriate to criticize the Court and the victim. [...] He failed to mention in any of his tweets, however, the extensive prior record of the defendant, her drug abuse, or the fact that her sentence ranges - as set forth by the legislature- call for jail time."
Graf also brought up in the release that Menser refused medical treatment at some point and that three of her four kids are no longer in her custody or care.
Fetterman is standing by his stance and told WPMT-TV, “I am just suggesting that they [err] on the side of compassion and allow this woman to see her doctor. This is not public enemy number one. This is not Hannibal [Lecter] that they have to, you know, wheel out in a catcher’s mask and in a gurney. This is an addict.”
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