Cancer patient sentenced to jail now receiving treatment, family says

Lebanon Co. judge declined a request to resentence Ashley Menser to home confinement

  • Joseph Darius Jaafari

Courtesy of Stephanie Bayshore

Ashley Via Menser was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011. She pleaded guilty to a theft charge totaling more than $100, and was sentenced to serve up to 10 months in Lebanon County Correctional Facility.

The 36-year-old cancer patient who was sentenced to up to seven years in jail for stealing $109 from a Weis Market was denied the opportunity to have her sentence reconsidered. The Lebanon County judge who handed down the sentence said no new information was presented that would sway him to change it.

Ashley Menser, who has a long history of minor theft and drug abuse, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 and cervical cancer in 2018. She was receiving treatment at Hershey Medical Center for the past year, but her ovarian cancer advanced recently, according to medical records provided to PA Post

Hours before she was set to meet with an oncologist to schedule a hysterectomy, Menser appeared in court and was sentenced 10 months to seven years in prison. She was taken into custody the same day. 

Last Friday, Menser’s lawyer, Scot Feeman, petitioned the judge to resentence his client to house arrest so she could continue receiving treatment from her physician at Hershey Medical Center. 

But the Lebanon Daily News reported that Judge Samuel A. Kline denied Feeman’s motion, saying that the “defendant has failed to provide additional information which would effect the decision of the Court.” 

The 10-months-to-7-year sentence handed down by Kline drew criticism from Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who used Twitter to call on the judge to show mercy. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also commented, saying that Kline had “likely condemned this woman to die of cancer in prison over petty retail theft.” 

A column published this week in The Morning Call said Kline was right in his sentencing, but also condemned the decision as not being fiscally responsible, since the prison now has to pay for Menser’s treatment.

A message left at Kline’s office asking for comment wasn’t returned. 

Last week, the Lebanon County district attorney issued a statement that noted Menser’s lengthy criminal history and said Kline was limited in what he could do at sentencing due to strict guidelines set in law by the legislature.

Earlier this week, Menser’s family expressed worry that she was not receiving treatment while being held at Lebanon County Correctional Facility. But after Menser was transferred to the State Correctional Institution-Muncy in Lycoming County, she began receiving care, according to her mother, Stephanie Bashore.

Bashore said it’s unclear when she will be able to talk to her daughter next to get an update on the treatment.

“She called me before her appointment and I asked her to call me back to let me know how it goes,” Bashore told PA Post on Friday. “But then she called back and said she won’t be able to call for a while. I asked when I could visit, and she said it wouldn’t be for a while, either.”

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sue McNaughton said it was protocol to suspend visits and calls until the prison processes inmates’ medical clearances. 

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