From Staff Reports
BEDFORD, Pa. — Two Bedford women who stole a 9-year-old girl’s gift card on her birthday publicized the matter Tuesday as part of Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins’ public punishment initiative.
Fifty-six-year-old Evelyn Border and her daughter, Tina Griekspoor, 35, stood outside the Bedford County Courthouse displaying signs as part of a plea agreement. Higgins said he will ask the court to impose a sentence of probation instead of a jail sentence. The women displayed the signs for 4 1/2 hours after being charged with theft.
Higgins said the women stole the child’s gift card that she had set on a shelf at a Walmart store in Everett while an employee assisted her April 26.
The women used the card to pay for their own items. They also returned to the store days later and attempted to use the card again.
The public punishment initiative was suggested by Assistant District Attorney Travis Livengood, who saw the necessity for a special kind of punishment to combat disgraceful criminal behavior such as stealing from a little girl on her birthday.
“I told their defense attorney they had two options. Plead guilty and leave sentencing open to the judge where I would ask for substantial jail time, or serve their public punishment prior to their guilty plea and the commonwealth (Pennsylvania) would agree to probation. Such shameful conduct deserves to be met by equally shameful punishment,” said Livengood.
Higgins said the public punishment was accepted as part of a plea agreement. “Be it a sign around a thief’s neck, a public apology in the town square from a domestic abuser to their spouse, or cleaning out the animal cages at the humane society once a week, it is time that the blame and shame be focused exactly where it should be — upon the criminal,” said Higgins.
Livengood said the public punishment initiative is not imposed only for punishment but also to promote rehabilitation and prevention of future crimes.
“Guilt and shame are powerful motivators to reform one’s behavior,” said Livengood. “Likewise, the fear of public humiliation is an equally powerful motivator to refrain from committing crimes in the first place.” He said the public punishment is of great benefit to the public “by providing greater transparency into the criminal justice system.”
He said the victim’s mother supports the initiative.
“I spoke to the little girl’s mother about the proposed public punishment and she was thrilled with the idea. Not only did it give the young victim and her mother the satisfaction of justice, but her mother told me she would be driving her daughter past Griekspoor and Border today to teach her daughter a lesson about responsibility and leading a law-abiding life. This is precisely why I suggested the creation of the public punishment initiative.
“Every day, law-abiding citizens hear about outrageous conduct from criminals and say ‘They should be ashamed of themselves.’ Now, with our public punishment initiative, we can tell the law-abiding public that these criminals will be ashamed of themselves,” said Livengood.