MILWAUKEE (AP) — Attorneys for a Madison couple accused of torturing and starving the man's 15-year-old daughter have asked a judge to lower their clients' bail, and the father has asked that he not have to be present for court proceedings, according to legal documents filed this week.
The court doesn't need to impose high bail because neither defendant is a flight risk, both have clean records, and neither pose a physical risk to any person or the community, the filings said.
Those motions were expected to be taken up Friday when the father, 40, and stepmother, 42, are due in court. A judge earlier set cash bond at $22,500 for the father and $30,000 for the stepmother.
The two are accused of denying the girl sufficient food and forcing her to live in the basement, and her 18-year-old stepbrother is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting her. The Associated Press isn't naming any defendant to avoid identifying the girl.
"These are good people who have been unfairly characterized by the incomplete investigation that has been done," Thomas J. McClure, the attorney representing the stepmother, told AP. "And when the truth comes out later in this process, the public is going to find a very different situation than the way it has been presented."
The father is an eight-year Army veteran who was honorably discharged from the military, according to a motion filed Wednesday by his defense attorney William J. Hayes. The man has had stable employment for about the last five years and has no prior arrests, the document said.
The man also asked that he not have to attend any court hearings.
"I request leave of the Court to be excused from attendance at any or all proceedings, including the trial in this matter," according to a letter signed by the man. The letter doesn't offer an explanation, and Hayes did not immediately return a phone message Thursday.
McClure filed a motion Tuesday asking that the judge reduce the stepmother's bail. She's a stay-at-home mom with no criminal record, lived in Madison for her whole life and has health problems that limit her mobility, the motion said.
She is "in poor health so can't run and can barely walk without becoming short of breath," it said.
Her filing said her husband has lost his job as a truck driver and she has no savings of her own.
The 15-year-old girl weighed 70 pounds, about as much as a 9-year-old girl, when a passing motorist spotted her walking barefoot and wearing thin pajamas last month. She gained 17 pounds in just over a week in protective care.
At least two neighbors said they had called child-protection services after seeing the girl rummaging through the garbage for food or being berated by the family.
The girl acknowledged to a detective she has wanted to kill the stepmother and has told her father and the stepbrother she wanted to cut them, but "it was only words."
Associated Press writer Barbara Rodriguez in Madison, Wis., contributed to this report.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.