PHILADELPHIA — The wife of an abortion doctor told a judge Wednesday that her husband deserves his life sentence for killing babies born alive, but complained that she and her children are left to deal with the public scorn.
Pearl Gosnell must spend at least another four months in prison for helping perform illegal, third-trimester abortions at the seedy clinic, including one on a 14-year-old girl who was 31 weeks pregnant. Her husband, Kermit Gosnell, 72, was sentenced this month to life without parole in a case that became a flashpoint in the nation's polarized abortion debate.
"I am the wife of Kermit Gosnell. I'm not happy about that now, and I haven't been for a long time," Pearl Gosnell, 51, said at her sentencing Wednesday, when a judge gave her seven to 23 months in prison, minus nearly three months for time served after her 2011 arrest.
Gosnell lashed out at her husband, saying he refused to take a plea deal that would have spared her prison and saved the family home, and called him cowardly for refusing to speak at his sentencing.
"By choosing to take the cowardly course that he did, my husband has left me to make the apologies," Gosnell told a judge. "My husband is in jail forever, which is where he should be."
A trained cosmetologist, she reaped the financial rewards of her husband's busy abortion and pain clinic, and lied about the $250,000 in cash found stashed in their teen daughter's bedroom, a prosecutor said. She told the FBI it came from rental properties.
"You chose to be his partner in life. And you chose to be his partner in this operation masquerading as a medical facility," Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner said.
Earlier in the day, Lerner freed a former employee who had pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and testified against Gosnell, though she admits killing a baby born alive in a toilet. Adrienne Moton had spent 28 months in prison, but Lerner credited her with both remorse and redemption.
"I don't feel I got arrested. I feel I got rescued," the 36-year-old Moton said in emotionally raw remarks to the judge that mirrored a gospel sermon.
Moton, a friend of Gosnell's daughter, had moved in with the Gosnells as a teen amid family problems. She later went to work in the clinic, moving from the front desk to the procedure room, where she and other unlicensed workers monitored heavily sedated patients as they endured labor and cut the necks of babies born alive.
She did that at least 10 times before she quit the $10 an hour job and entered a welfare-to-work program.
"I wasn't thinking about the fetuses or the babies. I was thinking about those women. I was thinking about those stories," Moton said, describing how she wanted to help the female patients, some of whom she saw beaten or coerced outside the West Philadelphia clinic.
Moton had taken a cellphone picture of an aborted baby that was about 30 weeks old that became a key piece of evidence at Gosnell's trial. The photo was shown repeatedly to jurors.
Lerner called Gosnell a manipulator and "charismatic sociopath," while defense lawyer Stephen Patrizio, who represents former worker Lynda Williams, called him "a depraved, parasitic hustler."
Williams was Exhibit A of the way Gosnell preyed on his workers and patients alike, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said Wednesday.
Williams, 44, was raising four children after she saw her husband murdered in nearby Chester. She had long been bipolar, and had left school after sixth grade to raise her siblings. Yet Gosnell put her in charge of anesthesia, leading to the 2009 death of a new immigrant who died after repeated doses of sedatives and painkillers. Gosnell was also convicted of contributing to the woman's death.
Gosnell played Williams from the start, Patrizio said.
"He gave her something nobody in her life has ever done. He gave her a little bit of self-esteem," the lawyer said.
Pescatore asked for at least 10 years for Williams, who pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in the deaths of both the patient, 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar of Woodbridge, Va., and a baby that moved after being born. But her sentencing was postponed until federal drug charges can be resolved. They stem from Williams' role at Gosnell's front desk, where she allegedly sold painkiller prescriptions for him to addicts and drug dealers.
The scheduled sentencings of two other co-workers — 53-year-old Sherry West and 47-year-old Tina Baldwin — are likewise on hold amid the federal charges. Gosnell is also charged in the federal court case, but plans to plead guilty at a June 6 hearing. Several other co-defendants, including an unlicensed doctor who admits cutting 100 babies for Gosnell, also await sentencing.Comment on this story
Before his capital murder trial got underway in March, Gosnell rejected an offer to serve a life term on both the drug and murder charges. In exchange, his wife would have been spared prison time and avoided the likely forfeiture of their home, where she lives with their 15-year-old daughter and 21-year-old son, who is in college. Gosnell also has four older children from two previous marriages.
"Being the selfish, inconsiderate person that he is ... he decided to go to trial," said defense lawyer Michael Medway, representing Pearl Gosnell. "He left his family essentially hanging out to dry."
What's worse, he said, his client and her children have to live with a name that "will go down in infamy."