Judge sends message to shoplifters

After appearing this morning before the Walhalla magistrate, six people pleaded guilty to shoplifting and were given the choice of paying fines or going to jail. Law enforcement authorities say the six are among a three-fold increase for this time of year in the numbers of those who’ve been arrested. Magistrate Blake Norton gave the six the option of paying $2,100 fines or serving 30 days in jail. When none of them could immediately come up with enough fine money, they were handcuffed by sheriff’s officers for the short transport to the detention center. Norton declared he was sending a message to shoplifters. “The county’s tired of it. Wal-Mart is tired of it,” Norton told sentenced. The possibility of six more jail inmates apparently will swell Oconee’s jail population, which has increased in the last week as the result of two separate drug sweeps targeting about 70 people. This morning the jail count stood at 163.