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A suburban Chicago couple charged with leaving their young daughters home alone while they went on a Christmas vacation to Mexico are the victims of a "witch hunt," a defense attorney claims.

Attorneys representing David and Sharon Schoo are seeking court permission to interview the two girls. Nicole, 9, and Diana, 4, have been placed in foster care. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Feb. 26.Defense attorney William Glis-son said the Schoos are being unfairly targeted.

"I see a state's attorney who just came into office and sees an opportunity to make a wave. This is like a 17th century witch hunt," Glisson said Friday.

The Schoos were arrested Dec. 29 at O'Hare International Airport when they returned to Chicago from a nine-day trip to Acapulco, Mexico.

They were charged with child abandonment, child endangerment and cruelty to a child. A Kane County grand jury Tuesday returned new indictments against the Schoos, accusing them of 64 counts of aggravated battery to a child and possession of marijuana.

The new charges include allegations that the Schoos hit the children with belts, pulled their hair, kicked them in the ribs and stomach, and kept the older child in a crawl space of their home and the younger girl in a room alone for extended periods.

Defense attorneys said because of a ruling by the presiding judge, the abandonment charges may not hold up in court. They also said they would welcome parents on the jury that will ultimately hear the Schoos' case.

"Most families who discipline their children with any degree of punishment with a belt or with their hands or otherwise would look at their past conduct and try introspectively to place themselves in the same position as the Schoos," said attorney Herbert Hill. "The aggravated battery charges are grossly inconsistent with the law."