Charges refiled against man in Pa. basement case

December 22, 2011 - 5:50 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Prosecutors said Thursday that they have refiled charges dismissed by a judge this week against a suspect in the case of mentally disabled adults found locked in a basement as part of what authorities say was a Social Security fraud scheme.

Prosecutors said they're refiling kidnapping, assault and other charges against Eddie "the Reverend Ed" Wright. On Tuesday, a judge had agreed to drop charges against Wright after his attorney argued his client was more a victim than a perpetrator in the case.

Paroled killer Linda Ann Weston, who authorities have said was the ringleader; her daughter, Jean McIntosh; and her boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, have been ordered to stand trial on charges they kidnapped mentally disabled adults for their Social Security checks and then abused them. The victims say they lived with Weston for years and were often kept locked up. The suspects haven't entered pleas.

Wright's attorney said he will again ask that the charges be dismissed. "Eddie Wright was held captive by Linda Weston," attorney Louis D'Onofrio said Thursday. "Mr. Wright was abused and victimized by Linda Weston."

Wright remains in custody and a preliminary hearing on the refiled charges was scheduled for Jan. 20, prosecutors said in a statement.

Judge Patrick Dugan said at Tuesday's preliminary hearing that he could not hold Wright for trial after hearing testimony that he, too, was a victim in the case. "I cannot in good conscience hold Mr. Wright for trial," Dugan said in announcing his decision to dismiss the charges.

In court, prosecutors had argued that, while Wright's case was somewhat different, he had acted as a "bodyguard" and played a role in the conspiracy.

The case began unfolding in October when a landlord said he stumbled upon four mentally disabled adults in a basement in the city's Tacony section Authorities have described the victims as having the mental capacity of 10-year-olds

Investigators maintain Weston moved the group to Philadelphia, Killeen, Texas, West Palm Beach, Fla., and Norfolk, Va., over the past decade. They often were one step ahead of stiffed landlords or the law, according to investigators.