Utah doctor to face murder charge in Maryland

By Jennifer Dobner

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 9 2012 1:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah doctor waived extradition proceedings on Monday and will be taken to Maryland to face felony murder charges after a botched late-term abortion in 2010.

Dr. Nicola Irene Riley waived extradition after a judge denied a request for bail during a hearing in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court. The physician has been in jail on a fugitive from justice warrant since her arrest on Dec. 28.

A Maryland grand jury indicted Riley, 46, with one count each of first-degree and second-degree felony murder and with one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in December after what prosecutors say was a 16-month investigation.

Also charged is Dr. Steven Brigham, of Voorhees, N.J. Brigham, 55, was indicted on five counts of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy. He was released from jail on a $500,000 bond in Maryland on Friday.

An investigation of the doctors began in August 2010, after what authorities said was a botched procedure at Brigham's clinic in Elkton, located near the border of Maryland and Delaware.

Documents filed in an investigation by medical regulators found an 18-year-old woman who was 21 weeks pregnant suffered a ruptured uterus and an injured bowel. Rather than call 911, Riley drove her to a nearby hospital, where both she and Brigham were uncooperative and Brigham refused to give his name, documents show.

A search of the clinic after the botched abortion revealed a freezer containing 35 late-term fetuses, including one believed to have been aborted at 36 weeks, the documents show.

Maryland is one of 38 states that allows murder charges to be brought against someone accused of killing a viable fetus. The 2005 law allows for murder or manslaughter charges to be brought against a person who intends to kill or seriously injure a fetus or who wantonly disregards the safety of a fetus. It does not apply to doctors administering lawful medical care and does not impinge on a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.

On Monday, Riley's Utah attorney Edwin Wall said the doctor was not aware of any criminal investigation prior to her arrest.

Wall asked a judge to set bail at $30,000 cash and said Riley, who has practiced medicine in Utah since 1997 and has family here, is not a flight risk. Riley had not fled Maryland to avoid criminal prosecution and has traveled there several times since the start of the investigation by medical regulators to attend hearings related to the case.

Judge Ann Boyden denied the bail request.

It was not clear Monday how quickly Riley might be transported to Maryland and Cecil County State's Attorney Ellis Roberts was away from the office and unavailable for comment.

Riley's medical license was suspended by the Maryland Board of Physicians in September.

In Utah, Riley has been allowed to continue to practice, but inked an agreement with the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing not to perform any abortions while she remained under investigation by Maryland authorities.

DOPL officials declined comment on Monday beyond stating that they continue to monitor's Maryland's process and will re-evaluate their agreement with Riley if necessary.

Also in September, Riley was separately fined by DOPL for lying about her criminal background and her involvement with a 1990 credit card fraud scheme she was involved in while serving in the U.S. Army.

Associated Press reporter Sarah Brumfield contributed to this report from Baltimore.