A woman accused of exploiting and neglecting the elderly and disabled residents of licensed and unlicensed person care homes in Augusta backed out of a plea deal Friday morning, firing her attorney and waiving her demand for a speedy trial.
Margaret Dale Freeman, 60, was scheduled to stand trial Monday in Richmond County Superior Court on a 26-count criminal indictment that stemmed from one of the first cases pursued by the new personal care home task force, Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly.
After a pretrial hearing Thursday, Freeman was prepared to accept a plea deal - 12 years in prison followed by life on probation - that was set to expire Friday. The sentencing hearing was set for Friday morning.
But Freeman told Judge John Flythe on Friday morning that while she considered attorney Charles Rollins a friend, she believed it was in her best interested to waive her right to a speedy trial and hire another attorney to present her side of the case.
“I apologize for any inconvenience to the court,” Freeman said. She has been held in jail since her Oct. 1 arrest.
District Attorney Natalie Paine protested that both sides had worked diligently to prepare for the trial set to begin Monday. The prosecution had more than 50 witnesses under subpoena. Several other people who have been in jail months and even years had their cases postponed so Freeman’s speedy trial demand could be honored, Paine said. She wanted assurance that Friday’s action wasn’t intended to just delay the trial.
Flythe said he understood, but Freeman had released her defense attorney and she should not be forced to represent herself next week.
Freeman was charged with the exploitation and neglect of elderly and disabled residents who lived in one licensed personal care home, Joshua House 3, and several other houses prosecutors contend were unlicensed personal care homes.
She is charged with 15 counts of neglect of a disabled adult, two counts of exploitation of a disabled adult, four felony counts of operating an unlicensed personal care home, one misdemeanor count of operating an unlicensed personal care home, and four counts of misdemeanor obstruction of an investigation.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.