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Wife of convicted Pennsylvania abortion doctor gets jail time

By Sarah Hoye, CNN
updated 10:59 AM EDT, Thu May 30, 2013
"My husband left me to make the apologies," Pearl Gosnell said before being sentenced Wednesday for performing a late-term abortion and other crimes.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Wife of doctor had pleaded guilty two years ago
  • She was accused of performing late-term abortion
  • Her husband, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder

Philadelphia (CNN) -- Calling her husband a coward and sobbing between pleas for leniency, the wife a Philadelphia abortion doctor was sentenced to jail time Wednesday for her role in late-term abortions at the medical facility.

Pearl Gosnell, 52, was sentenced to 7 to 23 months in a county prison for performing a late-term abortion, corrupt organization and conspiracy. In Pennsylvania, abortions past 24 weeks are illegal unless the health of the mother is at stake.

"By choosing to take the cowardly course he did, my husband left me to make the apologies," Pearl Gosnell told Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner. "My husband is in jail forever, which is where he should be."

"I'm sorry for my part in this," she said, stopping to collect herself. "It's my fault I wasn't more diligent."

Pearl Gosnell pleaded guilty in 2011 and has been under house arrest since. She will get credit for time served.

Earlier this month, Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder for killing babies at his West Philadelphia abortion clinic by cutting their spinal cords with scissors after their mothers' gave birth. He was sentenced to life without parole in exchange for waiving his right to appeal the convictions. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty.

Doctor found guilty of first-degree murder in Philadelphia abortion case

The 72-year-old physician was also found guilty of the involuntary manslaughter in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, 41, who died of an anesthetic overdose during a second-trimester abortion at his West Philadelphia clinic.

Dr. Gosnell pleaded not guilty and refused to take a plea deal, opting instead -- much to his wife's chagrin -- for a jury trial. His defense called no witnesses and he did not take the stand.

Defense attorney Michael Medway called five witnesses to testify on behalf of Pearl Gosnell. Among them were Gosnell's biological children, Alexandra Gosnell, 15, a Philadelphia high school student, and Barron Gosnell, 21, who is in college.

"Please don't take my mother, too," Alexandra Gosnell said before returning to her seat in the back of the courtroom, where she cried for the remainder of the hearing.

Before Lerner rendered the sentencing, assistant district attorney Joanne Pescatore referenced prison calls between Pearl Gosnell and her husband, told the judge she "saw a very different Pearl."

"It makes me sick," Pescatore said. "She was a major participant. She gained monetarily from these desperate women at the end of their rope."

Lerner explained how he viewed Gosnell before rendering his decision.

"You're not in the same position as these other women," he said, explaining how he was near tears after reading letters from the Gosnell children asking for leniency for their mother. "You were his partner. You chose to be his partner in life, and sadly, you chose to be his partner in this foul organization masquerading as a medical clinic."

The medical clinic owned by Dr. Gosnell had been growing increasingly reckless, according to a 2011 grand jury report. Gosnell and nine other employees at the Women's Medical Center were charged with crimes for the illegal practices at the clinic.

Eight people involved at the Gosnell's clinic have pleaded guilty to various charges, including four to murder.

Among those who pleaded guilty was former Women's Medical Center employee Adrienne Moton, who was set free Wednesday.

Mother shares regrets amid Pennsylvania abortion trial

"You're going home today," Lerner said while her father, brother and sister erupted in cheer.

Moton, who has been in jail since 2011, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, conspiracy, corrupt organizations and conspiracy for snipping the neck of a baby that had been delivered into a toilet.

She also took a cell phone photo of 'Baby A,' who was described as close to 28 weeks old and was placed in a shoebox-like container. Trial testimony revealed Dr. Gosnell joked the baby could "walk to the bus stop."

"I'm embarrassed and truly ashamed," Moton told the court between sobs. "I wasn't arrested, I was rescued."

Former employee, Lynda Williams, 45, also appeared in court. However, her sentencing was postponed pending a federal case against the clinic. Williams was charged with and pleaded guilty to two third-degree murder charges in the death of a patient and a live infant, and other related offenses.

Attorney Stephen Patrizio argued that Williams, a bipolar mother of three with only a sixth-grade education, needed psychiatric help, not more jail time.

Gosnell's sister-in-law and former clinic employee Elizabeth Hampton, 55, was sentenced to a year's probation Tuesday for lying to the grand jury about how Mongar died. Hampton, who testified against Gosnell at trial, was the first among them to be sentenced.

Opinion: Gosnell case shows why abortion rights need protection

Hampton worked at Gosnell's clinic with her common-law husband, Jimmy Johnson, who performed janitorial duties there. The couple, along with their daughter and four grandchildren, lived in a house owned by Gosnell. Hampton worked on and off at the clinic where she primarily cleaned instruments and answered phones.

Johnson also testified at trial. He said that the toilets inside the clinic would be "stopped up" at least twice a week.

"When I plunged it once, particles came up," Johnson said.

"What kind of particles," assistant district attorney Edward Cameron asked.

"An arm came up," Johnson replied.

Gosnell, a family practitioner who was never board-certified as an obstetrician or gynecologist, was also found guilty of 21 counts of performing abortions beyond 24 weeks.

Gosnell's co-defendant, Eileen O'Neill, 56, was found guilty of conspiracy to operate a corrupt organization and two counts of theft by deception for operating without a license to practice medicine. O'Neill, a medical school graduate, was not charged with performing illegal abortions. O'Neill is scheduled for sentencing July 15.

Gosnell horror fuels fight for abortion laws

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