After several postponements, Lemieux nervously awaited an early-August trial date. She hadn't found a new job. "When you're older and a waitress, you find yourself bumping into younger gals who want the same job," she says. "Plus, I was a criminal. They ask you about your last job and you tell them you got fired for stealing. Good luck."

Strapped for cash, Lemieux signed up for Social Security payments three years earlier than she had planned. Being fired also cost Lemieux her health-insurance coverage. Since then, Lemieux says, she and her husband Carl haven't been able to afford coverage.

"I know we're old and we need insurance and all that," she says. "But what can you do?"

Finally, it was the day of trial. Lemieux, her husband and several of her children and grandchildren piled into a city courtroom and sat in the front row. Moments before jury selection got under way, prosecutor Jana Weldon approached defense lawyer Mike Bernays.

"I'm going to talk to my supervisor," she told him. "Hold on."
Ten minutes later, Weldon handed Bernays a piece of paper on which she had dismissed the case. The official reason? "No reasonable likelihood of conviction at this time."

Almost eight months and untold sleepless nights after her January arrest, Beverly Lemieux was a free woman. Lemieux's family smothered her in hugs and kisses.

One of Lemieux's daughters went to reclaim the $420 bond the family had posted to get the waitress out of jail. She then turned over the bond to attorney Bernays for his fee.

"What an incredible outlay of resources for all concerned," Bernays says. "It reminds me of a company town--`We'll book and we'll prosecute if you want us to.' We were lucky enough to have a decent prosecutor who saw the case for what it was, though the facts of the case were the same in March, when I wrote my letter, as they were in August. Bev has paid for that 64-cent mistake."

Smitty's wasn't untouched by this episode, at least in terms of money. The entire well-fed Lemieux clan has changed its store of choice from Smitty's to anything but. A possible scenario would be that the 64-cent bust will cost the store several thousand dollars each year from the Lemieux family.

"I go to Fry's these days," Bev Lemieux says. "I mean, we all went to Smitty's. Went. We got everything there and I was proud of the store. It's so stupid. I'm not a thief."

"They ask you about your last job and you tell them you got fired for stealing. Good luck.

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