Philly basement suspect gets death-penalty lawyerBy MARYCLAIRE DALE
The Associated Press | January 29,2013AP PHOTO
This undated photo provided by the Philadelphia Police Department shows Linda Weston. A grand jury in Philadelphia alleges that several disabled adults were confined in subhuman conditions in a scheme to steal their Social Security benefits, and that two people died as a result.PHILADELPHIA — A paroled killer charged with murdering two mentally disabled women in a Social Security scam was assigned a new lawyer Monday with death-penalty experience.
Federal prosecutors may seek the death penalty against Linda Weston, who’s now charged with murder, racketeering and hate crimes.
Weston, 52, appeared briefly in federal court Monday, the same day related state charges were dropped. She has been in custody since October 2011, when a landlord found four bedraggled adults locked in a squalid boiler room and called police.
Federal authorities last week unsealed an indictment that charges Weston, her daughter and three others with confining disabled adults like “zoo animals.” The victims were often drugged, deprived of food and medical care, and forced to use buckets for bathrooms, officials said.
Weston used “cunning, trickery, force and coercion” to get mentally disabled people to designate her as their caretaker, allowing her to illegally collect about $212,000 in Social Security payments over 10 years, authorities charged. In all, authorities allege six disabled adults and four children were held captive in “subhuman” conditions in basements, attics and closets at various times between 2001 and 2011.
Defense lawyer George Yacoubian, who represented Weston for more than a year in state court, calls the federal murder and racketeering charges “inflated.” Local authorities investigated both the 2005 death in Philadelphia and the 2008 death in Virginia, and declined to press charges, he noted.
“I think it’s a reach,” Yacoubian said. “Somebody dying in somebody’s care does not make it a homicide.”
Yacoubian also challenged the racketeering charge, arguing that federal authorities assumed a hierarchy within the group that wasn’t there.
“Certainly, the RICO charges are inflated,” he said. “RICO requires some sort of enterprise where subordinates take orders. ... There was no organization.”
Because he does not have federal death-penalty experience, a judge Monday appointed capital lawyer Patricia McKinney to represent Weston on the federal charges. She and several co-defendants are due back in court Thursday for federal detention hearings.
Weston previously served time for the slow starvation death of a man locked in her Philadelphia apartment.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania urged officials Monday to expand a pilot program designed to prevent criminals from managing another person’s Social Security benefits.
About 5.6 million representative payees — those who receive benefits on behalf of people who cannot manage the funds themselves — handle $61 billion in Social Security payments each year for about 7.6 million beneficiaries.
“These beneficiaries need to know their representatives are individuals who can be trusted,” Casey wrote in a letter to Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue.MORE IN Wire NewsPIONKI, Poland — Everybody in Poland seems to be against them now: temporary contracts that offer... Full StoryROME — Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year for Rome, and the first of as many as 30 million... Full StoryCINCINNATI — A University of Cincinnati officer who shot a motorist during a traffic stop over a... Full Story
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day 1739, 'Richard Palmer' identified in prison at York Castle as the notorious outlaw DICK TURPIN; IN 1836, Battle of the Alamo begins near San Antonio de Bexar, Texas; 1896, the Tootsie Roll invented by LEO HIRSCHFELD.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1472, Orkney, Shetland islands put up as collateral by Norway to Scotland in lieu of dowry for MARGARET OF DENMARK on her marriage with JAMES III, king of Scotland; 1962, JOHN GLENN first American to orbit Earth.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: City mayoral candidates debate campaign issues; Hartford, Conn., woman still missing; Neal Goswami reports attempts to legislate suicide; local woman loses 100 pounds through TOPS program.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1878, JOHN TUNSTALL murdered near Lincoln, New Mexico, by the outlaw JESSE EVANS; in 1930, ELM FARM OLLIE first cow to fly in aircraft, first to be milked airborne; 1955, nuke test WASP; '79, snow in Sahara.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Rutland Herald News Editor Alan J. Keays and staff writer Gordon Dritschilo discuss stories planned for the February 18, 2015, edition of the newspaper: Winter budgets maxed, legal marijuana, Springfield bank job, USPS slowdown
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1249 AD, ANDRE of LONGJUMEAU is dispatched by LOUIS IX of France to meet the KHAGAN, ruler of the Mongol Empire; in 1804, during 1st Barbary War, STEPHEN DECATUR scuttles the pirate-held USS Philadelphia in Tripoli.