Pa. woman needs surgery to treat cancer, but judge gives her prison time in $109 theft


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A Lebanon County woman with cervical and ovarian cancer was hoping for house arrest when she went to a sentencing hearing for a retail theft charge earlier this month, but her plans to schedule surgery were thrown off when a judge sentenced her to 10 months in state prison instead. 

Ashley Menser, 36, was arrested in September 2018 for retail theft, and later pleaded guilty to taking $109.63 worth of items from Weis Markets in Palmyra. She has had cervical cancer for several years, and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer soon after her arrest, according to her mother, Stephanie Bashore. 

Bashore said they had tried to delay the criminal proceedings for as long as possible in order to focus on her treatment. They were shocked when Menser was sentenced to state prison and are desperate to get her the care she needs. 

Menser had an appointment at Hershey Medical Center later the same day as her sentencing hearing where they expected to schedule a hysterectomy. 

“She’s just sitting there, all upset because she thinks she’s going to die in jail,” Bashore said. 

Menser’s doctors wrote in a document provided to the Lebanon Daily News that a hysterectomy was the treatment required for Menser’s condition. 

“If she does not receive treatment, her disease will progress, and she will inevitably succumb to her disease,” the note reads. 

Scott Feeman, Menser’s lawyer, said while the decision from Common Pleas Court Judge Samuel Kline was well within the sentencing parameters, it isn’t in Menser’s best interest. 

They had included information about Menser’s condition and a request for house arrest in a sentencing memo, Feeman said. 

“From the materials we received from Hershey (Medical Center) they were ready to schedule the operation,” Feeman said. “So we thought they were in the best place to continue her care and give her the best possibility of getting her cancer into remission.”

Kline did not return a call asking for comment. Incoming Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess could not be reached for comment. The sentencing portion of Menser’s docket sheet notes her condition. 

“The Court urges the State Correctional Facility in light of the Defendant’s apparent possible physical conditions, to promptly as possibl, (sic) move her to a State Facility that has adequate medical treatment for her issues,” the docket sheet reads. 

Feeman said they are filing a motion to appeal Friday and expect a hearing next week. 

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‘I really need her released’

This isn’t Menser’s first brush with the law – according to the criminal complaint she has several prior convictions for retail theft. Feeman said Kline noted Menser’s history with the law during the sentencing hearings. 

A document provided to the Lebanon Daily News indicates Menser deals with several mental health issues, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

A third party who visited Menser in the Lebanon County Correctional Facility Thursday said she is frail and could barely hold a pen. In a note Menser wrote to the Lebanon Daily News, Menser said that she needs surgery.

“I am very sick and weak I have a lot of pain,” Menser wrote. 

Bashore said her daughter is willing to serve her time, but wants to be able to have surgery and recuperate at home first. 

“I really need her released,” Bashore said. 

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