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Wal-Mart won't let shoplifters serve sentence at Attalla store

ATTALLA (AP) — Wal-Mart doesn't want thieves on the premises, even when they're bearing signs admitting their offense.

Attalla City Judge Kenneth Robertson said Wednesday that an attorney for Wal-Mart told him that two convicted shoplifters couldn't finish out their sentences in front of the store, where the judge had ordered them to spend two Saturday afternoons holding signs saying, "I am a thief, I stole from Wal-Mart."

Robertson said the attorney told him that the discount retail giant had safety concerns about the sign-bearing shoplifters outside the Supercenter, where they drew notice last Saturday.

"I think his main concern was the fact that there was so much interest in this there might be some safety issues for the people standing out there, that people might try to run them down or throw something at them," Robertson said.

He planned to have the two hold the signs outside the courthouse downtown from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. But he said he preferred the penalty be served outside the store.

"I told them this takes away the tremendous impact of what we're trying to do," Robertson said.

Robertson said he had long tried to get the store to agree to the punishment, but had been turned down. Then, he said, company officials "told me just out of the blue without me inquiring, saying, 'Go ahead and do it, we think it's a great idea."' But that changed again after the shoplifters actually stood outside.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sharon Weber said the sentence might be an effective deterrent, but the company simply changed its mind.

"Upon further review, we simply would rather the punishment not be carried out on store property," she said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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