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Last 2 Philadelphia Abortion Clinic Defendants Are Sentenced

By Joseph A. Slobodzian, The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — The last two workers charged in the operation of Kermit Gosnell’s West Philadelphia abortion clinic — both pleaded guilty and testified against Gosnell — were sentenced Thursday by a Philadelphia judge.

Lynda Williams, 45, a trained phlebotomist with a host of personal problems whom Gosnell groomed to administer anesthetic drugs and assist in abortions, was sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison by Common Pleas Court Benjamin Lerner on her plea to two counts of third-degree murder.

Lerner sentenced Tina Baldwin, 48, a receptionist at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society clinic to 30 months probation for her guilty plea to sustaining a corrupt organization, conspiracy, and corrupting the morals of a minor. The latter charge involved Baldwin allowing her daughter, Ashley, then a 15-year-old high school student, to work at the clinic.

Gosnell, his wife and eight workers were charged in February 2011 in the operation of the clinic in which illegal late-term abortions were performed and where babies born alive and viable were killed by Gosnell and some of his workers.

All but Gosnell pleaded guilty and he was found guilty of murder last year and sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison. Gosnell, 73, is serving his sentence in the state prison at Huntingdon in central Pennsylvania.

Despite Williams’ cooperation in Gosnell’s trial, Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron sought a 10- to 20-year sentence, telling Lerner that she was responsible for two deaths.

One of those was the 2009 death of abortion patient Karnamaya Mongar, 41, to whom Williams administered too much of an anesthetic drug. The other, Cameron continued, was an infant born alive whose spinal cord Williams snipped with surgical scissors, a technique used by Gosnell to terminate live births.

“She is an adult, she is a mother herself,” Cameron argued. “This was a living human being in front of her, a living human being who was crying.”

Defense attorney Stephen P. Patrizio called Cameron’s request “outrageous” in light of Williams’ cooperation and testimony at Gosnell’s trial.

Williams told Lerner that she “felt manipulated, used, and lied to by Dr. Gosnell.”

“Suppose all that is true, so what?” interrupted Lerner.

“I just want to be home with my family,” Williams added.

Lerner sentenced Williams to 5 to 10 years, with credit for the three years she has been in prison since her arrest.

Lerner said he was disappointed that he did not hear “some comprehension on your part that you … were a functioning, responsible adult human being.”

“You chose to do terrible things,” the judge added.

Photo via WikiCommons

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Obama Pick For Justice Post Draws More Criticism

By Joseph A. Slobodzian, The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — President Barack Obama’s nomination of a lawyer with links to cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal to a top U.S. Justice Department post was condemned Monday by Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, a Democrat.

With the Senate Judiciary Committee set to vote Thursday on Debo Adegbile’s nomination to head the U.S. Civil Rights Division, the two joined Adegbile’s opponents. White House officials had no comment on Toomey’s opposition or Adegbile’s nomination.

Toomey and Williams were to have appeared with police officials Monday at Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police headquarters in Northeast Philadelphia. Although snow canceled the news conference, Toomey released a statement saying Adegbile’s involvement with Abu-Jamal’s case “raises serious questions about his judgment and fitness.”

Leading the Civil Rights Division requires an “absolute commitment to truth and justice,” Toomey said. “I do not believe that Mr. Adegbile demonstrated such a commitment in his handling of the Mumia Abu-Jamal case.”

Williams released a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), opposing Adegbile, 46, the committee’s senior counsel since 2013.

Williams called Adegbile’s credentials “impressive,” but said “his decision to champion the cause of an extremist cop-killer … sends a message of contempt to police officers who risk their lives every day to maintain the peace.”

Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering Officer Daniel Faulkner, 25, in Philadelphia the night of Dec. 9, 1981. He was sentenced to death, although that penalty was later overturned.

Williams wrote that Adegbile chose to get involved in Abu-Jamal’s appeals even though the former radio personality was “already well-represented and had large cash funds at his disposal.”

John Rizzo, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., said the Pennsylvania Democrat has not decided how he would vote on Adegbile’s nomination.

Casey will meet with Fraternal Order of Police officials and Adegbile to give “fair and thoughtful consideration” to the nomination before making a decision, Rizzo said.

Adegbile told the Senate committee last month that he had no direct role in writing three briefs submitted on Abu-Jamal’s behalf by the NAACP legal unit. All three involved the fairness of the death sentence, not Abu-Jamal’s guilt, Adegbile said.

Adegbile said lawyers have a professional duty to represent even the most unpopular clients: “Our commitment in the Constitution is to follow our procedural rules even in those hardest cases, perhaps especially in those hardest cases, so that all of our rights can be vindicated.”

Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was reversed in 2001 by a federal judge in Philadelphia who ruled that the trial judge’s jury instructions were unfair.

The District Attorney’s Office doggedly appealed the decision, but in 2011 the Supreme Court refused to overturn. Two months later, Williams — flanked by Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, and police and FOP officials — announced he would stop pursuing death for Abu-Jamal.

Abu-Jamal, 59, has effectively exhausted his appeals and is in the Mahanoy state prison in Schuylkill County.

The absence of the death penalty threat drained the urgency of Abu-Jamal’s case for some supporters, but he remains a cause celebre to many on the left.

Now he is also a political cudgel for the right.

In 2012, for example, the National Republican Congressional Committee backed U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, a Bucks County Republican, and used Abu-Jamal against his opponent, Democrat lawyer Kathy Boockvar.

Fitzpatrick has already denounced the Adegbile nomination and was to have appeared at Monday’s news conference, along with state Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia), and GOP City Councilman Brian J. O’Neill. Two weeks ago, the Pennsylvania state House Republican Caucus introduced its own resolution condemning Adegbile.

Still, letters submitted to the Judiciary Committee have overwhelmingly supported Adegbile’s nomination. Among supporters were several federal and local prosecutors, officials of various civil rights groups and James R. Silkenat, the American Bar Association president, who wrote he was “alarmed” at “the criticism this nominee has received.”

Adegbile’s “efforts to protect the fundamental rights of an unpopular client … is consistent with the finest tradition of this country’s legal profession and should be commended, not condemned,” he said.

Photo: Scott* via Flickr