Pa. woman to fight exchange student charges

July 23, 2009 6:11:05 PM PDT
A Scranton woman accused of placing foreign exchange students in filthy homes turned herself in to authorities Thursday and said through her lawyer that she intends to fight the charges. Edna Burgette, 69, was arraigned in Carbondale and released on $25,000 unsecured bail.

Burgette was charged Wednesday with five felony counts of criminal negligence for allegedly placing teenagers from Norway, Colombia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Vietnam in deplorable housing. Prosecutors said some of the homes were littered with animal waste, had a shortage of food, and also housed ex-convicts.

"The grand jury only heard one side of the story and we intend on giving her side," said Chris Osborne, a lawyer for Burgette.

Burgette received $400 for each student she placed for Aspect Foundation, a San Francisco-based exchange agency. Aspect fired Burgette, saying it deplored her actions and had no prior knowledge of the neglect.

Thursday, Osborne declined to say whether Burgette denies placing students into unsuitable homes.

"I'm not going to get into whether or not she admits or denies the specifics of the case," Osborne said after the arraignment. "Now is not the time. It's not appropriate. That will be for a jury to decide. All we have is a police report."

Osborne said his client was a lifelong resident of Scranton and was an exemplary member of the community. He said she was religious and was studying to be a minister.