MATEN
Maten Family  /  AP file
This undated photo provided by the Maten family shows Merlene Maten, 73.
updated 1/13/2006 3:01:45 PM ET 2006-01-13T20:01:45

A church deaconess and great-grandmother jailed for two weeks after being accused of looting sausage during Hurricane Katrina will not be prosecuted.

Merlene Maten, 73, learned of the decision Wednesday when she appeared in court for her arraignment, said her attorney, Daniel Becnel III.

“My God tells me it’s best to give than to receive. So for anybody to even think of accusing me of doing something like that, it just sickens me to my stomach. But thank God, thank God, thank God it’s over,” Maten said.

Kenner police spokesman Capt. James Gallagher said he was surprised the charge was refused.

“We thought it was a valid case, but we don’t have any control over what the DA does,” he said.

Maten had evacuated New Orleans with her disabled 80-year-old husband to a hotel in suburban Kenner. On Aug. 30, the day after Katrina hit, police arrested her, saying they saw her carrying beer and sausage out of a looted store.

But Maten said she was retrieving clothing and sausage from the trunk of her car in the hotel’s parking lot. Family and eyewitnesses insisted she had not been looting and said the officers cuffed her in frustration, unable to catch younger looters.

The looting charge alleged she took $63.50 in goods from a deli. Her bail had been set at $50,000, and she was taken to the state women’s prison, being used as a temporary jail in the wake of Katrina.

Despite intervention from advocates for the elderly, volunteer lawyers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a private attorney, the family fought a futile battle for 16 days to get her freed.

A judge ordered Maten freed on her own recognizance Sept. 16, hours after her plight was featured in an Associated Press story.

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