Judge Hears Shoplifter's Story About Drunk Marine

Has shoplifter Martin J. Schimmel got a story for you.

It starts with Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano asking him why he's in court in a wheelchair.

There's a drunk Marine in it, a fall from an Applebee's railing and a shattered heel that sends the 44-year-old Schimmel to the hospital.

It ends with him before Giordano on Tuesday, pleading guilty to retail theft and receiving nine to 23 months in county prison.

Here's what went down, in the words of the unfortunate Schimmel as he tried late Sept. 9 to steal a bicycle and a backpack full of groceries from the Walmart in Lower Nazareth Township.

To set the scene as the inmate speaks, picture occasionally muffled giggling from Giordano; from the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney James Augustine; and from Schimmel's own public defender, Vivian Zumas.

The night he was hurt, Schimmel said, he was making his break from the Easton Nazareth Highway store with his pilfered goods, pushing the bicycle as he went.

But then a man jumped out of a car with a knife. And said, "I'm a Marine. Stop!" before giving chase.

Schimmel is no stranger to shoplifting arrests and was on parole from jail at the time as a result. But he said he'd never experienced anything like a guy with a knife coming after him, and he decided it was time to run away.

Schimmel's path took him over the rail of a nearby Applebee's -- coincidentally, one in which Giordano said he had recently eaten -- then crashing down on the pavement and breaking his foot.

The Marine -- Schimmel can only vouch for what he said he was, and not whether he actually was one -- came up as his foot swelled and asked him why he was robbing someone.

I'm not, Schimmel responded. I'm just shoplifting.

Apparently, the Marine had problems of his own.

"He helped me up from the thing and said, 'I got to get out of here, I'm drunk,' " Schimmel told Giordano. "He tried to carry me up. He was so drunk he fell like five times."

For the record, Augustine said, the police report confirms that a witness did give chase that night.

It certainly was a high price for Schimmel to pay for the crime, Zumas started telling Giordano. But the judge stopped her, saying you can't commit a bad act, then complain about its consequences, even if they are a shattered heel.

"There's a word for what you're arguing," Giordano said. "It's called chutzpah, right?"

Schimmel said he isn't trying to make excuses, or use his injury to get out of trouble.

"You're not suing Applebee's are you?" Giordano asked Schimmel, listed in court records as having no fixed address.

"No," Schimmel said.

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