9/18/2005

Grandmother Accused of Looting Released - Yahoo! News

GRETNA, La. - A 73-year-old woman who was jailed for more than two weeks after authorities accused her of looting was released Friday evening.

Merlene Maten said the first thing she wanted to do was visit her 80-year-old husband.

"I thank God this ordeal is over," she said after being released from the parish jail. "I did nothing wrong."

Police arrested Maten the day after Hurricane Katrina on charges she took $63.50 in goods from a looted deli. Her bail had been set at $50,000.

Family and eyewitnesses insist she only had gone to her car to get some sausage to eat when officers cuffed her in frustration, unable to catch younger looters at a nearby store.

Despite intervention from the nation's largest senior lobby, volunteer lawyers from the
Federal Emergency Management Agency and even a private attorney, the family fought a futile battle for 16 days to get her freed.

Then, hours after her plight was featured in an Associated Press story, a local judge on Thursday ordered Maten freed on her own recognizance.

Maten still must face the looting charge at a court hearing in October. But the family, armed with several witnesses, intends to prove she was wrongly arrested.

Grandmother Accused of Looting Released - Yahoo! News

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