The woman who pleaded guilty to keeping adults with mental disabilities locked in a basement now wants to change her plea.
Linda Weston wrote a memo asking the court to change her guilty plea to not guilty and hold a competency hearing to evaluate her mental health, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“I hereby request a motion to withdraw my plea of guilty on the above case immediately and change my plea to not guilty,” Weston wrote in a letter obtained by NBC10. “I hereby request a motion for a competency hearing to evaluate my mental health. I feel I was pushed by my attorneys to plead guilty and I do not understand what occurred that day. I have expressed that many times to my attorneys and they have ignored my pleas for assistance.”
Weston, 55, pleaded guilty to murder and other charges last month in order to avoid a possible death sentence. Weston entered the plea to all 196 counts against her which also include kidnapping, racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, hate crimes, sex trafficking and fraud. Two women she pleaded guilty to holding captive later died.
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Weston has been in custody since October, 2011, when a landlord found four bedraggled adults locked in a squalid boiler room of a home in the Tacony section of northeast Philadelphia and called police. One man was found chained to a boiler.
Authorities accuse Weston of using "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. They say Weston, her daughter and three others confined the victims like "zoo animals," often in the dark, in basements, attics and closets at various times between 2001 and 2011.
The victims, who eventually totaled six disabled adults and four children, were often sedated with drugs in their food and drink, sometimes deprived of food and medical care and forced to use buckets for bathrooms, authorities say.
"When the individuals tried to escape, stole food, or otherwise protested their treatment, Weston and others punished them by slapping, punching, kicking, stabbing, burning and hitting them with closed hands, belts, sticks, bats and hammers or other objects, including the butt of a pistol," prosecutors alleged.
Prosecutors said Weston forced two women into prostitution to earn more money for the family when they lived in Texas and Florida.
Defense attorneys Patricia McKinney and Paul George said their client had been ready to plead guilty since a federal indictment was filed in 2013 against her and four others.
"Her decision was motivated largely by concern for her children and so there could be some sort of closure for them," McKinney said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Two other defendants have pleaded guilty in the case and two others are awaiting trial.
Weston’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 5. Assistant U.S. Attorney Faithe Moore Taylor told Philly.com a decision on Weston’s request rested with the court but that as of now sentencing will proceed as scheduled.