By Dave Andrusko
After hearing two days of testimony, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara may rule as early as today on the length of sentence for John Andrew Welden, who has admitted tricking his then-girlfriend into taking a drug (Cytotec) to induce an abortion. There will be closing arguments limited to 20 minutes each, beginning at l:00 pm, after which Judge Lazzara will decide whether the sentencing Welden agreed to as part of a plea bargain should be reduced.
Welden pleaded guilty to lesser charges of consumer product tampering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud as part of a plea bargain to avoid first-degree murder charges under the NRLC-inspired Unborn Victims of Violence Act. The September agreement between prosecutors and defense attorney Todd Foster recommended a prison term of 13 years and eight months for Welden.
However the case took an abrupt turn. At the same time Todd Foster, Welden’s attorney was working out the plea bargain for his client, he submitted an affidavit which argued a single dose of Cytotec would not induce Remee Jo Lee to abort her 6-7-week unborn baby last March.
Judge Lazzara then decided to hear testimony, which concluded Thursday.
On Wednesday the prosecution called Dr. Catherine Lynch and Dr. Daniel Buffington. Dr. Lynch told the court that an ultrasound performed by Welden’s obstetrician father showed the baby to be viable and that there was no risk she would lose her child.
Dr. Buffington “explained that Cytotec is mainly used to treat bleeding ulcers but comes with a black box warning by the FDA,” Jacqueline Ingles for the local ABC affiliate reported. “Cytotec is classified as a Category X drug, meaning it poses significant risks to pregnant women. The warning alerts and reminds doctors of this risk and to not prescribe it to a pregnant woman who intends to carry her baby to term.”
Buffington told the judge, “No dose is safe.”
Media coverage was less extensive for Thursday’s hearing.
Reporting for WTSP, Eric Glasser explained that Welden’s “lawyers cited medical records showing Lee was already experiencing bleeding in her seventh week of pregnancy suggesting other factors may have led to the miscarriage.”
Defense witnesses presumably also made the case that it would be “impossible” for anyone to definitively say a single 200 microgram of Cytotec would cause an abortion, or that it could cause serious bodily harm to Ms. Lee—the argument made in an affidavit submitted by Dr. Rebecca Allen.
Weldon told Ms. Lee that his physician father 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 altered Cytotec pills inside. (Cytotec can be used to induce contractions and is the drug commonly used in conjunction with RU486 to complete abortions. It is also increasingly used in the U.S. and many other countries as a stand alone abortifacient.)
Welden “also affixed a second label to the bottle reading, ‘Amoxicillin: 125mg oral tablet,’ a common antibiotic,” according to reporter Elaine Silverstrin.
Weldon told Ms. Lee to take the pills three times a day. She took one pill, began to experience pain and contractions, and hours later was at Tampa General Hospital where doctors told Ms. Lee that her baby was dead.
There was speculation Ms. Lee would testify but she did not.