Judge replaces lawyer in Tacony dungeon case

Posted: January 29, 2013

A federal judge today replaced the lawyer for Linda Ann Weston, the Philadelphia woman who could face the death penalty after being accused of running a ring that kidnapped, tortured and enslaved mentally disabled people to collect their government benefit checks.

U.S. Magistrate Judge L. Felipe Restrepo told Weston that lawyer George S. Yacoubian Jr. "has been doing very noble work without a fee," but that she needed attorneys' with experience in capital cases.

Restrepo appointed lawyer Patricia L. McKinney, who has such experience, and said he will consider adding a second lawyer to the defense team. He also said Yacoubian could continue to advise her.

Weston, 53, was indicted last week on racketeering, murder, involuntary servitude and other charges. The 196-count indictment also charged her daughter, Jean McIntosh, and three men. All but one have been in custody since October 2011, when Philadelphia police discovered their alleged victims, dirty and malnourished, locked in a Tacony basement.

Weston alone is accused of causing the deaths of two captives, by failing to feed or care for them in apartments in Philadelphia and Norfolk. Prosecutors say they will review the case before deciding whether or not to seek the death penalty.

Weston, who is being held without bail, is expected to plead not guilty to the charges. But Restrepo postponed her arraignment and detention hearing until Thursday so she could meet with the new lawyers.

Yacoubian, who had represented Weston since her arrest 14 months ago and had prepared for a Common Pleas Court trial, said he was surprised but not upset by the judge's decision. He said he'll continue to help if she wants.

He said the allegation that Weston led an organized crime enterprise to sustain a certain lifestyle was weak. She and her counterparts were just individuals struggling to survive, Yacoubian said.

"I haven't seen any evidence of any [luxurious] lifestyle," he said. "They all lived in squalid apartments in various locations."

Contact John P. Martin at 215-925-2649, at jmartin@phillynews.com or @JPMartinInky on Twitter.


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