Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge questions whether abortion pill caused miscarriage

TAMPA — A federal judge isn't convinced that the abortion pill John Andrew Welden gave an ex-girlfriend caused her to miscarry, and those judicial misgivings could translate to a shorter prison sentence than recommended for Welden.

An emergency hearing has been scheduled for today.

The 28-year-old son of a Lutz gynecologist is supposed to be sentenced Tuesday in a case brought under the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act. In a plea agreement, Welden admitted to mail fraud and product tampering causing serious bodily injury. His attorney and the prosecutor recommended a sentence of 13 years and 8 months.

But in an order signed Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara calls into question the strength of the government's case against Welden. He notes that defense experts say it's impossible to definitively conclude that one 200 microgram tablet of misoprostol (brand name, Cytotec) caused the death of Remee Jo Lee's nearly 7-week-old embryo in the spring.

And, to Lazzara's knowledge, the government has offered no evidence to refute that, he wrote.

"As a consequence, the Court has grave concerns with regard to whether there exists a true factual basis to support the parties' joint stipulation and recommendation," he wrote.

Lazzara's order put prosecutor W. Stephen Muldrow on notice that he would be expected to prove Tuesday "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."

Although Cytotec is known to trigger miscarriages, defense experts have said that repeat doses are typically prescribed. No one has claimed that Lee took more than one pill.

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.

Muldrow immediately asked for a delay in the sentencing, saying the government had an expert to back up its case, but that person would not be available for the Tuesday hearing.

On Sunday, defense attorney Todd Foster responded, objecting to a delay because Welden's friends and family members had already made arrangements to be in Tampa to speak on his behalf.

All parties will meet today for an emergency hearing to determine whether the sentencing should be rescheduled.

In his order, Lazzara said he appreciated that the prosecutor and defense counsel engaged in good-faith plea negotiations to resolve the case without trial, but he has an independent obligation to determine the facts of the case.

Welden pleaded guilty in September to consumer product tampering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. In exchange, the government dropped a first-degree murder charge filed under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which could have been punishable by life.

Staff writer Patty Ryan can be reached at or (813) 226-3382.

Judge questions whether abortion pill caused miscarriage 12/08/13 [Last modified: Sunday, December 8, 2013 11:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. CIA chief: Intel leaks on the rise amid 'worship' of leakers


    WASHINGTON — CIA director Mike Pompeo says he thinks disclosure of America's secret intelligence is on the rise, fueled partly by the "worship" of leakers like Edward Snowden.

    CIA director Mike Pompeo said the U.S. must redouble its efforts to stop information from leaking.
  2. ABC Racing kennel advances three into semifinals


    ST. PETERSBURG — The maiden voyage by Don Burk into the $30,000 St. Petersburg Derby series — his first as the ABC Racing kennel owner — went as easy as ABC.

  3. Why Grenfell tower burned: Regulators put cost before safety


    The doorbell woke Yassin Adam just before 1 a.m. A neighbor was frantically alerting others on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower about a fire in his apartment. "My fridge blew up," the man shouted.

    At least 79 people were killed in the fire at the Grenfell Tower apartment building in London, and the toll is expected to rise.
  4. Bullpen melts down as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jacob Faria allowed his first two big-league home runs and was touched for a career-high three runs Saturday by the Orioles. Other than that, the rookie making his fourth major-league start did okay against the Baltimore bats.

    The bullpen, not so much.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Baltimore Orioles scored four runs during the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday, June 24, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) SPD118
  5. Lightning shifts search for defense to free agency

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — As much as he tried, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman left the weekend's draft without acquiring another top-four defenseman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101