By Steve Tawa

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The woman at the center of what became known as the Tacony “basement of horrors” case in Philadelphia has pleaded guilty to all charges. The plea arrangement has the government agreeing not to seek the death penalty, and the defendant understands she will serve life – plus a consecutive 80-year prison term.

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The Justice Department thought about pursuing a rare federal death penalty in this case against 55-year-old Linda Weston, as the alleged ringleader of multi-state scheme to enslave mentally disabled adults, and steal their government benefit checks.

Prosecutors contend Weston and four others held people captive in Philadelphia, Texas, Virginia and Florida from 2001 to 2011, when four victims were found – one of them chained – in a basement in the Tacony section of the city.

Weston appeared before a judge on Wednesday with her two court-appointed lawyers and told the judge she went as far as fourth grade in school. She pleaded not guilty, last year, but has now entered a guilty plea to all charges, including murder, kidnapping, forced human labor, sex trafficking, wire and mail fraud and hate crimes.

“This was the first matter in the country in which we sought punishment under Section 249,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Rich Barrett, “which is the hate crimes statute, where the victims were disabled.”

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Defense Attorney Patricia McKinney argued it should not be a death penalty case, considering Weston’s upbringing.

“Nothing that happened, or that Linda Weston caused or was part of, was something that she herself did not go through,” McKinney told the court.

Two more of five people charged in the scheme already have pleaded guilty, including Weston’s daughter. They face maximum life prison sentences.

The cases against two others are pending.

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