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Shoplifting mother given house arrest

In one incident, the Tarpon Springs woman fled as her daughter hung out the car door.

By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2001


LARGO -- A Tarpon Springs woman who fled a shoplifting charge while her 12-year-old daughter was hanging half out of her car door was sentenced to house arrest Friday.

Jennifer Robinson, 33, was sentenced to two years' house arrest to be followed by three years' probation after she pleaded guilty in January to two felony theft charges stemming from North Pinellas shoplifting incidents.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Mark Shames also ordered that she be committed to a mental hospital during part of her house arrest for treatment for a bipolar disorder.

On Oct. 1, a customer at a Tarpon Springs Publix noticed Robinson stuffing items into her purse. The customer alerted Publix managers, who confronted the woman as she left the U.S. 19 store.

Robinson's 12-year-old daughter was in another aisle when managers approached her.

Two managers tried to stop Robinson, but she got into her car and drove away "extremely fast," leaving her daughter behind, according to a police report.

Witnesses told police that Robinson, returned to the parking lot, told her daughter to get in and pulled her into the car. As she drove off the second time, the car door was still open and her daughter was "half-in and half-out of the car," police said.

Police quickly caught up to her. In the trunk, they found $275 worth of groceries, including soda and packages of meat that still were cold.

Police initially charged Robinson with child abuse, a charge that prosecutors did not pursue. The girl was not injured and is being cared for now by her stepfather, Scott Robinson.

Two months before her Publix arrest, Robinson was charged with grand theft and resisting a merchant after she allegedly left the Burdines store at Countryside Mall with $329 worth of clothing in a bag.

She refused to return to the store after Burdines loss-prevention employees approached her and a friend in the mall.

At the time of both incidents, Robinson was on 18 months' probation for shoplifting $300 in groceries from an Albertson's in Palm Harbor.

Judge Richard Luce initially threatened Robinson with a prison sentence at a November hearing, telling her, "I appreciate that anyone in the courtroom would say, "God, that woman must have a screw loose.' "

Luce temporarily presided over the case, filling in for Shames. But when Shames got it back, Robinson's lawyer, John Trevena, convinced the judge that treatment was a better option than prison.

Robinson told Shames that she suffered from a childhood of molestation and sexual abuse.

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