A New York doctor whose patient died after aborting her late-term baby agreed to a plea deal to avoid a lengthier jail sentence.
Dr. Robert Rho pled guilty in connection to the death of Jamie Lee Morales after the jury in his manslaughter case entered its third day of deliberation. Rho's lawyer, organized crime attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, said he approached prosecutors fearing that the jury would convict his client based on the evidence against him after Morales bled out. Rho faced up to 15 years for the manslaughter conviction, but will only serve "9 to 10 months" under the plea agreement.
"I thought they were heavily leaning on the conviction of the top [manslaughter] count," Lichtman said. "We saved him years in prison."
Lichtman said he was convinced of Rho's innocence, but that he couldn’t ignore the revulsion of jury members throughout the trial. Morales met Rho under a pseudonym in order to abort her second trimester baby. The doctor, who estimated he performed 40,000 abortions, accidentally cut into her cervix and severed arteries. He sent her home to her sister's in the Bronx despite complaints of continued bleeding. Lichtman argued in court that Morales failed to inform the doctor of her Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, factors the defense said could have contributed to her death, but said "there was a lot of evidence in the case against him" that could have swayed the jury.
"There was never a thought in my mind they would exonerate him," Lichtman said.
A spokesman for the Queens District Attorney's office said it reached the deal after consulting with the family. They are satisfied that Rho took responsibility for his role in Morales's death.
"He has accepted responsibility and admitted that he failed to realize the damage that he had done," the spokeswoman told the Washington Free Beacon. "Unfortunately a 30-year-old woman has lost her life. He will go to prison as a result."
Investigators retrieved the body of the baby to try the case. Former Planned Parenthood worker Abby Johnson, who runs a pro-life nonprofit for industry workers called And Then There Were None, said regulators do little to protect women seeking abortion from negligent care.
"It is a misfortune that women must die before action is taken, and yet still the gross misconduct of clinics across the country continues to go unchecked," Johnson said in a statement. "For years, I have publicly stated that negligence ran rampant in the abortion industry. I saw it myself as an employee of Planned Parenthood and I heard about it from the over 440 abortion workers I’ve helped leave their jobs."
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said the damage done to Morales and her baby is not uncommon. She pointed to Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist convicted of murder for severing the spines of babies born alive. Gosnell's clinic came under scrutiny for pill-peddling, despite multiple complaints over his abortion services.
"This very sad incident that resulted in not only the loss of the baby but also his or her mother, Jamie Lee Morales, reminds us that abortion is a violent procedure with real health risks for both parties involved," Mancini said. "As we approach the fifth anniversary of the murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell, cases like Dr. Rho are becoming all too common."
Americans United for Life director of legal communications Deanna Wallace, who attended portions of the trial, said abortion clinics warrant closer inspection from health regulators. Too often Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities are given a free pass and complaints against them are "ignored by politicians who are funded by abortion industry dollars."
"Sitting in the courtroom, listening to the district attorney detail the negligence and disregard abortionist Robert Rho demonstrated towards Jamie Lee Morales, was both heartbreaking and frustrating," she said. "States must take action and pass legislation protecting women from being hurt and even killed inside abortion clinics."