PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A psychiatric examination has determined that a woman accused of imprisoning four mentally disabled adults in a basement as part of an alleged Social Security fraud scheme is competent to proceed in her criminal case, a judge said Wednesday.
Linda Weston, 51, is on suicide watch in prison, where she is awaiting a Dec. 19 preliminary hearing on charges including kidnapping, conspiracy and assault, according to her attorneys. Common Pleas Judge Marsha Neifield ordered that Weston get psychiatric treatment at the prison for 60 days.
The report, based on an evaluation conducted last week, found Weston was competent to proceed, but it also noted that she had issues with mental retardation and other problems, according to her attorney, George Yacoubian Jr.
“She certainly has problems with paranoia,” along with basic intelligence, Yacoubian said, adding that she could not spell “cat” and told him George Bush was president. “She certainly has trouble grasping the seriousness of the charges.”
Prosecutors did not comment, citing a partial gag order issued in the case.
Weston and three others were charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment and other offenses after her landlord stumbled on the four victims in a foul-smelling boiler room last month.
“It was a close call with respect to the competency,” Yacoubian said, noting that competency is a fluid thing that can be re-evaluated at any time.
Competency was an issue in a previous criminal case in which Weston was charged in 1983 with killing her sister’s boyfriend by locking him in a closet for weeks until he died of starvation. She was initially found incompetent to stand trial but was eventually convicted and served about four years in prison.
In the current case, Weston and her co-defendants—Weston’s daughter, Jean McIntosh, 32; Weston’s boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, 47; and Eddie “the Rev. Ed” Wright, 50 — are accused of preying on mentally disabled adults, locking them in the basement’s boiler room and wresting control of their disability checks. None has entered a plea.
Investigators say they are still working to discover the extent of the alleged scheme after finding more than 50 Social Security cards, power of attorney documents and other forms of identification. Eight children and four young adults linked to the defendants were taken into protective custody, and DNA tests are being conducted to determine the children’s identities.
Weston’s attorneys also told the judge Tuesday that she is suffering from sleep deprivation in prison and asked if anything could be done about lighting issues in her cell.
“I suggest you reach out to the prison,” Neifield said.
(Copyright 2011 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)