Release of woman who claims wrongful looing arrest
1. Close up Marlene Maten and lawyer Daniel Becnel talking in courthouse release area
2. Various Maten and Becnel talking
3. Wide shot as they rise and walk out of courthouse
4. Exterior courthouse as Maten and Becnel
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Marlene Maten, woman accused of looting:
"I thank God this ordeal is over, I just want to get back to my family and my 80 year old husband."
6. Mid shot Maten and Becnel
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Marlene Maten, woman accused of Looting
I did nothing wrong, nothing wrong, I am a deacon in my Church, been well respected all my life, never been in jail before never." (Maten and lawyer walk to car)
8. Maten gets in car
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Daniel Becnel, lawyer:
"It was sausage and supposedly a six pack of beer and she has never drank and the sausage is not even sold by the store. So we are confident we will prevail and that this ordeal... her house is seven feet under water, so she has got other things (to face) once we get this over with."
10. Becnel drives off in car
A 73-year-old diabetic grandmother and church elder who ended up in prison for more than two weeks after authorities in New Orleans accused her of looting following Hurricane Katrina, was released from jail on 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 the hurricane on charges she took 63.50 US dollars worth of goods from a looted deli. Though never before in trouble with the law, her bail was set at a stiff 50,000 US dollars.
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, setting up a sweet reunion with her family.
Maten must still face the looting charge at a court hearing in October.
Defence attorney Daniel Becnel, family members and witnesses said police snared Maten in the parking lot of a hotel in the suburb of Kenner, after floodwaters swamped her New Orleans home.
She had paid for her room with a credit card and followed authorities' instructions to pack extra food, they said.
She was retrieving a piece of sausage from the cooler in her car and planned to grill it so she and her husband, Alfred, could eat, according to her defenders. The parking lot was almost a block from the looted store, they said.
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