A Florida man who admitted to tricking his pregnant girlfriend into taking pills known to cause abortion has been ordered to serve more than 13 years in federal prison and to pay her about US$28,500 in restitution, US prosecutors said.
John Andrew Welden, 29, was sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty in September to charges of tampering with a consumer product resulting in bodily injury and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
As part of a plea agreement, Welden admitted that he gave the pills to his girlfriend, Remee Jo Lee, in March 2013 to kill her unborn baby.
The couple had been together for seven months when Lee fell pregnant. Police investigators found text messages between the two showing Lee wanted to keep the baby but Welden did not.
Welden said he had forged the signature of his obstetrician father on a prescription after he had confirmed the pregnancy. He then conspired with a pharmacy employee to order Cytotec, which can induce abortions.
Cytotec, known generically as misoprostol, is prescribed to prevent stomach ulcers and carries a warning that it should not be used during pregnancy because it can cause abortion, birth defects and premature death.
Welden scratched off identifying markings on the pills and then placed them in a bottle with a label provided by the unnamed pharmacy co-conspirator, indicating the contents were amoxicillin, an antibiotic, which he said his father had prescribed to treat a bacterial infection.
After taking just one of the pills, Lee began experiencing severe cramping and bleeding. She subsequently suffered a miscarriage.
“This wasn’t just a case to me,” Lee said in court between sobs. “This was the death of my child.”
During the court hearing, Welden said that he knows what he did was “inexcusable" and that he knows he "deserves punishment”, but added, “I’m scared of what awaits me in prison, honestly.”
Regardless, Welden's prison sentence consists of 10 years for the consumer product tampering charge and 44 months for mail fraud.
US District Judge Richard Lazzara also sentenced Welden to serve three years of supervised release after his prison term.
“I don’t believe Mr Welden’s an evil person, but he committed an evil act and he’s going to pay the consequences,” Judge Lazzara said.
“There comes a time when justice exacts its due, and that time has come for Mr Welden.”
Lee has also sued the pharmacy where she said the drug, prescription bottle and fake label were obtained.
- Reuters and staff writers