Metro

Woman denies lying about being Marathon bomb victim

One Fund critic had sought $2m

Joanna Leigh, center, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court on charges of larceny and making a false claim of injuries in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Joanna Leigh, left, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court on charges of larceny and making a false claim of injuries in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

Clad in a black bubble jacket and dark sunglasses, Joanna Leigh walked slowly into a Suffolk Superior courtroom Monday morning, clutching her mother’s arm.

And in a rare occasion, she was silent.

Leigh, 41, of Jamaica Plain, who was one of the most vocal critics of the Boston Marathon victims fund, was arraigned on charges of larceny and making a false claim to a government agency for allegedly lying about suffering a traumatic brain injury during the 2013 explosions in order to receive benefits.

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Leigh collected nearly $40,000 from the One Fund Boston and other sources, according to District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office.

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“She’s pleading not guilty,” said Norman S. Zalkind, who is representing Leigh. “We’ll let the jury decide.”

Leigh’s mother tried to comfort her as she teared up in court. Her hair in two braids, Leigh spoke only to mutter the words “not guilty,” when asked how she pleaded.

“She’s a very fragile person,” Zalkind said. “You have to understand that.”

Leigh was indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury March 11 on five counts of grand larceny by false pretense.

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Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick created One Fund Boston to provide financial aid to victims of the Marathon attacks. The fund distributed about $80 million in donations.

Leigh was awarded $8,000 from the fund, but sought more than $2 million and allegedly refused to provide medical records to support her case.

She was one of the most outspoken critics of the fund, contending she had been unfairly compensated.

Leigh told the Globe last week the charges were a result of her criticism.

Assistant District Attorney Greer Spatz did not seek to have Leigh held on bail. Leigh was ordered to surrender her passport within seven days, submit to Boston police booking procedures, and refrain from leaving New England or New York for the duration of the case without first notifying the court.

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She is due back in court on May 7.

In addition to the $8,000 from the One Fund, Leigh also allegedly received: more than $18,000 from the state’s Victims of Violent Crime Compensation fund, $1,800 raised for her by children and faculty at a Mattapan middle school, $9,300 from an online fund-raiser, and $900 worth of services from Dr. Jeffrey S. Dover and SkinCare Physicians, court records show.

According to prosecutors, investigators reviewed video surveillance, witness testimony, and medical and financial records and found that Leigh was at the Marathon on April 15, 2013 , but she was not injured.

Leigh is not the first person charged with trying to falsely claim money meant for Marathon victims.

Brothers Branden Mattier and Domunique Grice were convicted in June 2014 of filing a claim on behalf of an aunt who had died a decade earlier. Audrea Gause of Troy, N.Y., pleaded guilty to larceny charges last May.

Iris Gamble of Linden, N.J., was also charged in that state in 2013 with fraud and theft after the fund spotted irregularities in her application.

John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jan Ransom can be reached at jan.ransom@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jan_Ransom