Sunday, September 20, 2020
Sunday, September 20, 2020

Pa. woman has a month to live. Judge jailed her for $109 shoplifting charge.

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Ashley Via Menser, 36, is set to die in a Pennsylvania prison after being sentenced to jail for a $109 shoplifting charge. The sentence came just hours before the woman was scheduled for an oncology appointment regarding her diagnosis of advanced-stage ovarian cancer.

She was sentenced to serve up to seven years in prison.

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On Jan. 22, Menser was in court for sentencing, hoping the fact she was being treated for ovarian and cervical cancer would persuade the judge to delay or defer sentencing. 

Menser and her family were so confident she would be allowed to leave the courtroom that they had scheduled an oncology appointment for later in the day where they expected Menser to be scheduled for a hysterectomy to remove the cancer that had spread 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. “She must have this operation or she’s going to die.

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A review of medical documents provided to PA Post shows that Menser was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and was being actively treated. An appointment receipt confirms that she was due at the Hershey Medical Center’s Cancer Institute later in the morning of Jan. 22. The records also show that Menser has a history of drug abuse and post traumatic stress disorder, for which she was taking medication. 

Menser was convicted of theft in 2017 and also with drug possession and theft in early 2018.  

But that could all change – Pa. Lt. Governor John Fetterman called for her temporary release to medical personnel and he is expected to hand deliver a check for $110 to the local grocery market where Menser allegedly stole from.

“If the underlying details of this are accurate, this cannot be allowed to continue,” Fetterman said. “I’m sure @WeisMarkets doesn’t support this. I’ll personally pay the $109 back. Calling on Judge Kline to err on the side of mercy.”

“Release her immediately and allow the medical evaluation that was scheduled at Penn Hershey on the 22nd. I’ll personally deliver a check to the Weis Markets today [where] she shoplifted from for $110. Simply let her doctor evaluate her condition and that be the basis for moving forward.”

He added: “As draconian it is to imprison someone for nearly 10 months over shoplifting $109, that’s a different discussion. It’s not controversial to allow an immediate unbiased medical evaluation determine the just path forward.”

Despite all prisoners being constitutionally guaranteed health care – including cancer treatment – it doesn’t assuage Menser’s parents fears that they might lose their child while she’s in jail, as she’s considered a ward of the state.

“Ashley said she’s afraid she’s going to die in there,” Bayshore told the PA Post. “I just want to get her out and cared for.”

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