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Reckoning day looms for Tampa man in abortion pill case

John Andrew Welden pleaded guilty to product tampering and mail fraud in September after slipping his ex-girlfriend an abortion drug. He faces up to 15 years in federal prison.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

John Andrew Welden pleaded guilty to product tampering and mail fraud in September after slipping his ex-girlfriend an abortion drug. He faces up to 15 years in federal prison.

TAMPA — A psychiatrist suggests bipolar disorder crippled John Andrew Welden's judgment. Friends say he panicked. Meanwhile, his court-ordered guard says Welden feels remorse over slipping ex-girlfriend Remee Jo Lee an abortion drug.

"I have seen him, watched him and listened to him express sorrow while praying at the dining room table with his father and family," security officer Lenny Bogdanos wrote to a judge.

Their comments are contained in a sentencing memorandum filed recently by defense attorney Todd Foster in anticipation of Welden's sentencing, scheduled for Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara.

Welden, 28, faces up to 15 years in federal prison on charges related to Lee's miscarriage in March. Foster and prosecutor Stephen Muldrow have jointly recommended a sentence of 13 years and eight months, although Lazzara has the final say.

Foster's memo characterizes Welden as a survivor of childhood turmoil who worked hard in school and out of school and who still wants to be a productive member of society.

The attorney asks the judge to uphold a key element of the plea agreement by ensuring that Welden serve his sentence at a minimum security prison camp so that he might develop skills. The camps typically offer vocational training and dormitory housing in a setting more relaxed than a secured prison. Foster suggested a camp in Pensacola.

But under Bureau of Prisons policy, camps are reserved for inmates expected to serve fewer than 10 years. Even with good behavior and credit for time served, the agreed-upon sentence would disqualify Welden.

By Foster's math, any sentence greater than 143 months (11 years and 11 months) would prevent Welden from entering a camp — unless the judge intervenes with a special recommendation to the Bureau of Prisons.

"It is respectfully requested that this Court do everything in its power to assure that Andrew Welden serve his term of imprisonment in a camp," Foster wrote. He said Welden may also receive better access to mental health care at a camp.

Psychiatrist Jeffrey Danziger, who examined Welden in August, reported that he exhibited signs of bipolar disorder last spring that may have distorted his judgment and reasoning, the sentencing memo states. After learning of Lee's pregnancy, Welden was both depressed and manic, feeling a mix of sadness, guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness, racing thoughts, agitation, increased energy and reckless behavior, Danziger reported.

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.

Foster's memo states that Welden will pay Lee restitution of $28,541.42 for "financial loss." The loss is not itemized, but in crimes involving bodily injury to a victim, defendants typically are ordered to pay medical expenses. Lee, now 27, was hospitalized after the miscarriage began.

Patty Ryan can be reached at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

Reckoning day looms for Tampa man in abortion pill case 12/03/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 10:09pm]
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