LARGO — As defense attorney John Trevena tried to convince a judge that his young client should be freed from jail despite being charged with murder, she stood by his side and sobbed.
Jennifer Ann Mee also kept hiccuping.
"I would like to reiterate to the court that Ms. Mee is only 19 years of age," Trevena said. "She has never been arrested before. This has been her first experience with the criminal justice system."
But now the teen once known as "Hiccup Girl" is charged with first-degree murder, accused of plotting to rob 22-year-old Shannon Griffin — a plot that ended in his death, St. Petersburg police said.
Trevena appeared before Pinellas County Judge Donald E. Horrox on Tuesday morning to ask him to set $50,000 bail for Mee.
Mee was 15 when a case of unrelenting hiccups turned her into a media sensation in 2007. After repeated television appearances she was eventually diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome.
Then last month she was arrested for murder along with Lamont Antonio Newton, 22, and Laron Cordale Raiford, 20. Police said Mee lured the victim to an empty home on Oct. 23 so the other two could rob him — but instead they shot and killed him.
Because Griffin died in the commission of an alleged felony, all three can be charged with his murder. They are being held without bail in the Pinellas County Jail. It's rare, but not unheard of, for judges to release murder defendants on bail.
As his client hiccuped through the entire hearing, Trevena argued that Mee isn't a flight risk, that her parents would guard her 24-7 in their Spring Hill home. He also said his client is 19 in age only: she dropped out of the 10th grade, has a learning disability, can barely read and write and may even have brain damage. Mee couldn't even pass the written portion of her driver's license exam.
"Intellectually, mentally, I personally feel she stopped growing at the age of 10," said her stepfather Chris Robidoux.
Her mother, Rachel Robidoux, told the court her daughter was led astray by men who abused her and preyed on her for her disability checks. In short, Trevena told the judge, Mee doesn't have the mental or financial means to flee if allowed to post bail.
But Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Moin Kahn argued that she is a flight risk. Mee has been almost homeless for the past year, he said, and was reported missing several times by her family.
Trevena also tried to argue that there's little evidence tying Mee to the crime. Police haven't yet said who pulled the trigger, and are still awaiting the results of forensic tests.
But St. Petersburg police Detective David Wawrzynski testified that Mee already admitted her involvement in the plot: She texted Griffin where to meet her that night, then led him to the other two.
"She stated it was her intent for a robbery to occur," Wawrzynski said. "They all discussed that they needed some money."
As for Mee's demeanor in that interview, he said: "There was a portion where she cried, but other times she was making jokes."
The judge said he would issue a ruling Friday.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8472.