Grandmother Released From Custody (Finally)

by TChris

In a story that could have been entitled "Stupid Arrest of the Year," TalkLeft reported the plight of a 73-year-old diabetic grandmother and church elder who was arrested for allegedly looting sausages in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In defiance of the Constitution's prohibition of excessive bail, the woman's bail was set at $50,000. Her long overdue release from custody speaks to the power of the press:

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 daughter, grandchildren and 80-year-old husband.

Look for this prosecution to disappear quietly. A witness attests that the charge is bogus.

"That woman was never, never in that store," said Naisha Williams, 23, a New Orleans bank security guard who said she witnessed the episode and is distantly related to Maten. "If they want to take it to court, I'm willing to get on the stand and tell them the police is wrong. She is totally innocent."

Other witnesses say that "officers cuffed her in frustration, unable to catch younger looters at a nearby store." Here's what happened, according to the woman's supporters:

Defense attorney Daniel Becnel, family members and witnesses said police snared Maten in the parking lot of a hotel 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.

The notion that a law-abiding woman suddenly seized an opportunity to commit a crime at the age of 73 would defy rationality. The prosecution will also have a difficult time explaining the woman's motivation to go looting, given her circumstances:

"Why would someone loot when they had a car with a refrigerator and had paid with a credit card at the hotel?" asked Becnel, Maten's lawyer. "The circumstances defy the theory of looting."

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    Re: Grandmother Released From Custody (Finally) (none / 0) (#1)
    by scarshapedstar on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:54 PM EST
    I motion that she be indefinitely detained as an enemy combatant!

    Re: Grandmother Released From Custody (Finally) (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:54 PM EST
    For god's sakes, even if she took the sausage, which doesn't seem likely, given the statements of witnesses, noboy in that catastrophe ought to be prosecuted for "looting" food or water.

    Re: Grandmother Released From Custody (Finally) (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:55 PM EST
    you neglected to mention that the judge who originally set the bail (100 times the normal amount of $500 for this offense), by phone, cannot be located. i suspect, if this judge actually exists, he/she will never be located.
    I motion that she be indefinitely detained as an enemy combatant!
    send her to gitmo!