By Dave Andrusko
All the steps had been taken, most important a plea bargain, and John Andrew Welden was scheduled to be sentenced today for tricking his then-girl friend into taking Cytotec (misoprostol) to cause the death of Remee Jo Lee’s unborn baby.
In exchange for the government dropping a first-degree murder charge filed under the NRLC-inspired Unborn Victims of Violence Act (which could have been punishable by life), the 28-year-old Welden pleaded guilty to consumer product tampering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The September agreement between prosecutors and defense attorney Todd Foster recommended a prison term of 13 years and eight months for Welden.
Then, over the weekend, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara informed the parties that “The Court has grave concerns with regard to whether there exists a true factual basis to support” the plea bargain parties have already signed. This was an allusion to an affidavit from Dr. Rebecca Allen which argued that “it would be ‘impossible’ for one 200 microgram dose to have caused serious bodily harm and also ‘impossible’ for anyone to definitively say that it induced Lee’s abortion,” according to Patty Ryan, reporting for the Tampa Times.
Judge Lazzara wrote that to his knowledge, the government had offered no evidence to refute Allen’s conclusion.
Reporter Ryan explained, “Lazzara’s order put prosecutor W. Stephen Muldrow on notice that he would be expected to prove ‘by a preponderance of the evidence that the victim’s ingestion of Cytotec in fact caused her serious bodily injury and in fact caused the death of her unborn embryo.’”
Muldrow told the court he did have an expert to back up his assertion that one tablet of Cytotec would cause the death of Lee’s 6-7-week unborn baby but asked for a delay because that witness was unavailable today.
Judge Lazzara agreed, saying he preferred to hear from experts not by telephone but in person.
“Absent evidence that the pill caused the injury, the judge said he could be looking at sentencing guidelines for Welden that are as low as 41 to 51 months,” according to Ryan.
Back in March 2013, Weldon told Ms. Lee that his father, who is a gynecologist, said that she had an infection and he was bringing her antibiotics. After scratched identifying markings off the Cytotec pills, Welden then put the fraudulent label on the empty pill bottle and put the Cytotec pills inside. (Cytotec, a cancer drug, can be used to induce contractions.)
Welden then affixed a second label to the bottle reading, “Amoxicillin: 125mg oral tablet.” Amoxicillin is a commonly used antibiotic.
After taking one of the tablets, Lee began feeling severe pain and cramps, and “On March 31 , she went to Tampa General Hospital, where she was told the unborn child was dead,” The Tampa Times reported.