Wednesday, December 13, 2017
News Roundup

Release delayed for Tampa man charged in death of unborn child

TAMPA — A Tampa man accused of slipping an abortion pill to the woman he impregnated will likely remain jailed for at least another week as prosecutors fight a judge's bail order.

John Andrew Welden, 28, will not be released until July 9 or later, according to an order issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara. Prosecutors had appealed a different judge's ruling last week that Welden be released into the custody of a private security detail hired by his parents.

Lazzara's order was issued on the same day that U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony Porcelli, who made the earlier ruling, set the exact terms of Welden's bail on charges of killing an unborn child and tampering with a consumer product. The conditions include around-the-clock surveillance by two private security officers and confinement to his parents' home at 8304 Lutz Lake Fern Road in Odessa.

Welden will be allowed contact only with his parents and siblings, as well as his legal team, Porcelli said. His father, Stephen Welden, a prominent Lutz fertility doctor, and stepmother, Lenora Welden, were required to sign a $250,000 bond secured by their house.

Welden's attorneys had initially asked that his family be required to pay for only one private guard, citing the expense. Security officers can cost from $50 to $70 per hour.

"Three is probably better, five is probably better," defense lawyer Todd Foster said Monday. "But you can do the job with one."

Representatives of two security firms who testified at Monday's hearing each said one officer would be sufficient to oversee Welden. However, one of them acknowledged on the stand that the number was based on the suggestion of Welden's lawyers, not an independent assessment.

"You didn't make the individual assessment yourself as to what was necessary," Porcelli said. "You did it on the assessment of your client."

"That's correct," answered Martin Harm of Morrison Security Corp.

Both Harm and Julio Mata of Florida Commercial Security Services said that if anything went seriously wrong — if Welden sprinted out the door for a getaway vehicle, for example — the guards' only recourse would be to call 911.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow said Welden's home confinement would be inferior to jail in multiple ways.

"We all watch movies. We all know anything can happen," Muldrow said. "If a narcotic is put into his drink, what's going to happen? If the defendant, Mr. Welden, really wants to escape?"

After laying out the release conditions imposed on Welden and his family on Monday, Porcelli took a moment to address Welden directly.

According to Porcelli's order, the government can start forfeiture proceedings against Welden's parents if he violates any of his release conditions by such activities as drug use or contact with the woman he allegedly impregnated.

"There's a lot of people who obviously care about you," he said. "Point-blank, you've put them in a difficult situation."

He added, "I know that whatever I ask your parents, the answer will be 'Yes.' " Porcelli told Welden to "think long and hard" about whether he wanted to agree to his bail conditions.

Welden has been held by the U.S. Marshals Service in the Pinellas County Jail since May 15.

Prosecutors argued in a motion filed last week that it would be unsafe to release Welden, who faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment if convicted on the charge of killing a child in utero.

In addition to the risk of flight, Muldrow argued, Welden would have "greater ability … to intimidate or retaliate against the victim and her family" if released.

Prosecutors assert Welden gave Cytotec, a drug that induces labor and can cause miscarriages, to Remee Jo Lee, a 27-year-old woman he had dated. Lee miscarried in March.

In his order on Monday, Lazzara said Welden's defense lawyers have until July 9 to file a response to prosecutors' appeal of the release order.

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3337. Follow him on Twitter @petejamison.

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