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Leekin asks court for public defender in PSL abuse case


Leekin asks court for public defender in PSL abuse case

By Tyler Treadway

Thursday, October 4, 2007

FORT PIERCE — Claiming she has no assets or income, Judith Leekin on Wednesday asked for a public defender to represent her against charges she abused adopted children.

Leekin, 62, of Port St. Lucie, was arrested in July and has been charged with 10 felonies alleging she abused and neglected 11 children she adopted — using four aliases with the same birth date — from four agencies in New York City between July 1988 and April 1996. Police believe the children were malnourished, kept in a utility room in the house and forced to sleep on the floor, denied an education and medical care and at times bound with handcuffs and plastic ties.

Authorities also claim Leekin collected from $1.5 million to $2 million over the years for the children's care.

At a hearing Wednesday morning, Circuit Judge James W. McCann approved a motion by Leekin's attorney, Mario Garcia of Miami, to withdraw from the case on the grounds that Leekin was unable to pay him. However, the judge said he wouldn't appoint a public defender for Leekin until she properly fills out an application for indigent status.

Leekin failed to state her income on the application form she submitted to the court, McCann said.

Garcia said Leekin had planned to pay him by selling property she owns in New York, but federal officials there are in the process of seizing the property.

Leekin's only other source of income, Social Security checks of about $1,000 a month, are being held because she's incarcerated, Garcia added.

"It sounds like you may have assets that are beyond your reach," McCann told Leekin, adding that he wants proof there aren't "several Social Security checks sitting somewhere" for her.

Leekin remains at the St. Lucie County Jail in lieu of more than $4 million bail.

2007 Oct 4