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District Attorney Defends 10-Month Sentence for Cancer Patient Over $109 Theft

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  • Ashley Menser, a 36-year-old Pennsylvania woman with advanced cancer, was sentenced to at least 10 months in prison for stealing $109 worth of groceries from a Weis Markets store.
  • Upon hearing of the case, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman wrote a series of tweets condemning the court for their decision. 
  • District Attorney Pier Hess Graf responded to the criticism, saying Menser’s sentence was based on her extensive criminal record that Fetterman did not mention in his tweets. 
  • Fetterman still plans to urge Weis Markets to publically back the reconsideration of Menser’s sentence.

Shoplifting Sentence

A Pennsylvania district attorney defended the 10-month sentence of a cancer patient who stole $109 worth of groceries after facing criticism from another local official.

Ashley Menser, 36, who is battling uterine cancer as well as cervical cancer, pleaded guilty to the 2018 crime she committed at a Weis Markets store in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. She was ultimately sentenced for the crime on January 22 of this year. Her sentence was especially crushing for her family, as they claimed Menser’s sickness has reached a critical level. 

Stephanie Bashore, Menser’s mother, told The New York Times that her daughter is in need of surgery to remove her uterus and the tissue surrounding it. Bashore said that a medical professional recently told Menser, “If you don’t get this done, you will die. It is eating you up inside.” 

Bashore also told the Times that on the day of her daughter’s sentencing, she had a medical appointment scheduled to discuss options moving forward. 

Menser’s lawyer, Scot Feeman, conceded that the sentencing was aligned with his client’s criminal history, though he still expressed disappointment. He told The New York Times that Menser has a history with opioid use but has been clean for a while. 

Feeman also told the newspaper that Menser had been on powerful psychiatric medication to help her manage her post-traumatic stress disorder, which was partly induced by the death of her child.  

“With the psychiatric medicine, she has trouble discerning what’s real and what’s not,” Feeman told the Times

“She is in a lot of pain, and very ill,” Feeman added. “She’s very concerned about her health prospects going forward.”

Feeman had asked the judge to consider punishing Menser with house arrest so she could continue to receive treatment at the Penn State Cancer Institute, but the court rejected the notion based on her past crimes. 

Lieutenant Governor’s Response

When John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, read about Menser’s case in a PA Post article, he expressed his disbelief and disapproval of the sentencing on Twitter. 

“If the underlying details of this are accurate, this cannot be allowed to continue,” Fetterman wrote on Friday.

He also offered to personally compensate Weis Markets $109 for the groceries that Menser stole from their store.

District Attorney Weighs In

Pier Hess Graf, the Lebanon County district attorney, issued a statement on Saturday defending the decision of the court in Menser’s case after Fetterman drew much public attention to it. She wrote that Menser’s sentence reflected her extensive criminal record, including 13 prior theft convictions and welfare fraud. 

Graf also noted that Menser refused treatment for her sickness on her own, according to a document submitted by her own defense team in 2019.   

“Our Lieutenant Governor found it appropriate to criticize the Court and the victim,” Graf wrote. “He went so far as to offer a personally delivered check for the underlying amount to the victim to absolve the defendant of her crime.” 

“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 sentencing ranges — as set forth by the legislature — call for jail time,” Graf added. 

Additionally, Graf wrote that “the state system is far more capable of addressing serious health concerns for inmates.”

Feeman has filed a motion for a resentencing of Menser. 

Ultimately, Lt. Gov. Fetterman didn’t make a trip to the Lebanon grocery store to hand-deliver a check, though he did maintain his offer to cover the charge of the stolen groceries. He told The New York Times that he hopes to get Weis Markets company heads to support a reconsideration of Menser’s sentence.

“I know they don’t want this. Nobody wants this,” he said. “My hope is to get them on board and say, ‘This has gone far enough,’” Fetterman said

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (ABC) (Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Couple Slammed Over Slavery-Themed Pre-Wedding Photoshoot

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Many have expressed outrage at the duo for trying to romanticize slavery while others were left completely dumbfounded by the entire ordeal.


Photoshoot Goes Viral

A couple has come under fire after sharing images on Instagram from their slavery-themed pre-wedding photoshoot.


The photos show a Black man in shackles looking deeply into his white fiancé’s eyes before she works to releases him.


1842. Days passed and everything changed, our love got stronger and stronger, he was no longer a slave, he was part of the family,” the post’s caption reads.


To indicate his transition from “slave” to family, a fourth image shows him wearing a long coat and top hat with well-shined shoes, as opposed to the white shirt, trousers, and straw hat he wore in the previous images.

Social Media Users React

It’s not immediately clear who these people are since the social media handle is redacted in the images circulating online.

Still, many have expressed outrage at the duo for trying to romanticize slavery while others were left just completely dumbfounded by this entire ordeal. Some also directed criticism at the photographer who agreed to the shoot, along with the hundreds of Instagram users who liked the original posts.

See what others are saying: (The Daily Dot) (Black Enterprise) (BET)

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Couple Whose Gender Reveal Sparked CA Wildfire Hit With 30 Charges, Including Involuntary Manslaughter

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The fire, which caused massive damage and took months to extinguish, also killed the head of an elite firefighting team.


Gender Reveal Sparks Deadly Wildfire

A couple whose gender reveal party sparked the El Dorado wildfire in Southern California earlier this year has pleaded not guilty after they were hit with 30 charges, authorities said Tuesday.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez triggered the fire in Yucaipa on Sept. 5 with a smoke bomb that exploded in especially dry and hot conditions.

By the time the fire was extinguished in November, it had burned over 22,000 acres of land, injured more than a dozen people, forced hundreds of evacuations, and destroyed at least 10 structures.

The blaze also took the life of 39-year-old Charlie Morton, the leader of an elite firefighting team who worked as a firefighter for 18 years.

“He’s fighting a fire that was started because of a smoke bomb. That’s the only reason he’s there,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson said at a news conference.

Charges Include Involuntary Manslaughter

Authorities have charged the couple responsible for the wildfire with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures, and 22 misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing fire to the property of another.

The charges were filed after a grand jury heard 34 witness interviews over four days. A total of 434 exhibits were ultimately presented to the grand jury, leading to the indictment that was unsealed Tuesday.

After entering their not guilty pleas, the duo was released on their own recognizance until their next scheduled court date. CBS Los Angeles reported that they could face up to 20 years each if convicted as charged.

“You’re obviously dealing with lost lives, you’re dealing with injured lives, and you’re dealing with people’s residences that were burned and their land that was burned. That encompasses a lot of, not only emotion, but damage, both financially and psychologically,” Anderson explained at the press conference.

He also stressed that part of the reason the investigation and ultimate prosecution took so long was because authorities wanted to make sure justice was fully served.

“Given the scope and the impact of the El Dorado Fire on the land and lives of so many, particularly Charles Morton and his family, it was imperative that every investigation be completed within both federal and state agencies to provide a full, fair presentation to the members of our community,” he said.

See what others are saying: (CNN)(CBS)(NBC)

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Los Angeles County Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate Amid Rising Cases

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The renewed restrictions for the nation’s largest county come as coronavirus infections have been spiking across America, with new cases doubling in the last two weeks.


L.A. County Masks Up, Again

Starting Saturday, Los Angeles County will require people to wear face masks indoors again regardless of vaccination status as the nation’s most populous county grapples with a surge of COVID-19 cases.

In a press conference Thursday, L.A. County health officials pointed to low vaccination rates, a steady climb in new infections, and the rapid spread of the highly transmissible delta variant as driving factors behind the decision.

“We’re not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something will be too late given what we’re seeing now,” county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said. “This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.”

Without providing full details, Davis said there would be some exceptions to the restrictions, including people being allowed to take off their masks while eating and drinking at restaurants.

The move comes as community transmission in the county has skyrocketed since June 15, when California reopened its economy and ended capacity limits, along with social distancing guidelines.

For the week-long period ending on that date, L.A. County had averaged 173 new coronavirus cases a day. Exactly one month later, those numbers have increased by nearly 580%, with the county reporting an average of 1,176 infections a day for the seven-day period ending July 15.

On Thursday, officials logged over 1,537 more cases — the highest figure since early March. Around 70% of COVID samples in the county from June 27 to July 3 were identified as delta variants.

Notably, the vast majority of those impacted have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus. According to reports, between Dec. 7 and June 7, unvaccinated people made up 99.6% of L.A. County’s COVID cases, 98.7% of hospitalizations, and 99.8% of deaths.

Only five million of the more than 10 million residents in the county have been inoculated against the virus.

Cases Surge Across U.S.

L.A. County is not the only locality that has seen a spike in COVID cases, though it is one of the few that has taken firm action.

New cases largely driven by the delta variant, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says now accounts for nearly 60% of all infections in the U.S., have more than doubled in the last two weeks, according to The New York Times tracker.

The 14-day average has risen dramatically from 12,799 on July 1 to 28,315 on July 15.

According to The Times, 49 states have seen at least a 15% increase over the past 14 days, and 19 of those states are reporting double or more the number of new infections. Full outbreaks, largely concentrated in the South, have emerged in a number of states with low vaccination rates.

In the last two weeks, Arkansas, which is currently reporting the highest per capita COVID cases in America, has seen increases of 120% for new cases and 77% for hospitalizations. Florida and Tennesee have seen the most significant 14-day spikes in terms of population percentage, reporting surges of 232% and 373% respectively.

Some states and counties have begun to make additional safety recommendations. Officials in Mississippi, where cases have risen over 70% since July 1, have urged both vaccinated and unvaccinated senior residents to avoid large indoor gatherings.

Health officials in California’s Sacramento and Yolo counties also issued voluntary warnings this week for all residents to wear masks while indoors.

However, it remains to be seen whether more localities will reimpose mandatory requirements or restrictions as cases continue to swell and the delta variant proliferates. 

Rising cases in the U.S. and abroad also pose a more long-term threat to global efforts to fight the pandemic. On Thursday, the World Health Organization warned that the influx of new cases in many parts of the world will enhance the likelihood of more severe variants emerging that will be difficult to control with vaccinations.

The WHO also urged wealthier countries like the U.S. — where just over 50% of people are vaccinated despite the existence of supplies for all those eligible  — to send more jabs overseas.

See what others are saying: (The Los Angeles Times) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)

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