A judge dismissed one of the felony charges Friday against Linda Ann Weston and two others accused in the case of four mentally disabled adults found locked in a Tacony basement last fall.
Along with kidnapping, aggravated assault, and other charges, Weston, her boyfriend Gregory Thomas, and Eddie Wright, a street preacher from Texas, had been charged with several counts of neglect of a dependent-care person. But after an hours-long motions hearing, Common Pleas Court Judge Daniel J. Anders said prosecutors had not proved that the three were ever the designated caretakers of the alleged victims.
George Yacoubian Jr., Weston's attorney, said the felony charge was designed to protect people who are cared for by nurses or other individuals who enter into an agreement to provide services. Prosecutors have said that Weston served as the payee for government benefit checks that were distributed to the victims in the case, but Anders said that the documents submitted do not describe Weston or her accomplices as the victims' guardians.
Weston, 52, appeared more animated Friday than she has during past court appearances. Dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt, her graying hair in braids, she fidgeted, spoke to Yacoubian several times, and often shook her head as she listened to the arguments. Wright also shook his head vehemently at times when prosecutors detailed his alleged offenses.
The hearing provided a brief window into what promises to be a lengthy and complex trial, which has been set to begin Jan. 28. The case spans at least four states, and four of the five victims have mental issues that make it difficult for prosecutors to pinpoint when and where many of the alleged crimes occurred. The fifth victim is Weston's 20-year-old niece, who authorities said was kidnapped by Weston when she was a child.
On Friday Anders rejected most of the other motions filed by the defense attorneys in the case, including arguments that Weston and the others should not be tried in Philadelphia for crimes that occurred in other states, and that no kidnapping occurred because some victims went to live with Weston willingly and never tried to escape.
Weston, Thomas, and Wright have been charged with imprisoning the four adults for years, moving them around the country, and keeping them confined in attics, closets, and basements while starving them, beating them, and collecting their government checks. The victims were discovered in October in a squalid boiler room in the basement of a building where Weston's daughter, Jean McIntosh, lived. McIntosh also is charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, and other offenses in the case. Weston, Thomas, Wright, and McIntosh have been in custody since October.
Wright's lawyer, Louis D'Onofrio, has argued that Wright was a victim of Weston, not an accomplice. A judge in February sided with him and dismissed charges, but prosecutors immediately appealed and were granted a new hearing, in which a judge held Wright for trial.