Former student charged with murder granted trial for conditional bond
John Andrew Welden, a former USF student charged with first-degree murder and tampering with consumer product substances, was granted a trial for setting provisional bond a week after a new affidavit was submitted containing medical expertise that calls into question the strength of the case against Welden.
Welden, 28, admitted to law enforcement officials earlier this year he provided Remee Lee, who was six weeks pregnant with his child, with Cyotec pills disguised as Amoxicillin with the intent of inducing an abortion, was granted a trial to be held July 1 to determine conditions of release.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony Porcelli wrote that Welden was still deemed a flight risk and that detention prior to his trial, which has been set for July, is not intended to be punitive or an assumption against innocence, but instead protect the best interest of the community.
“Putting it bluntly, your client would be a fool not to run if I release him,” Porcelli told Welden’s attorney.
Porcelli wrote that Welden should be prepared to address the possibility of being placed under 24/7 security detail and home confinement with GPS tracking at his own expense, which could cost around $500,000 in addition to a $250,000 bond from friends and relatives securing Welden’s appearance in court.
The trial for bond was set after Dr. Rebecca Allen, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University who has studied Misoprostol, the drug in Cyotec that is used to induce abortions, submitted an affidavit to the court saying it would be impossible for a medical professional to determine the cause of death for Lee’s fetus.
Allen said she received information stating that Lee experienced first trimester vaginal bleeding prior to ingesting the 200 mcg dosage of Cyotec and had been placed on bed rest by her obstetrician.
“Based upon my education, training and professional experience, it is my opinion that it is impossible that one 200 microgram tablet of Misoprostol caused serious bodily harm to R.L.,” she wrote. “At most, one 200 microgram tablet may cause slight nausea, diarrhea, transient fever/chills, or minor abdominal discomfort (uterine crampnig). It would be impossible, with regard to causation, for any medical professional to definitively conclude that one 200 microgram tablet was the actual cause of any harm whatsoever to R.L. because bleeding and abdominal discomfort can be attributed to a variety of causes such as a natural miscarriage.”
Furthermore, she said, the mechanism by which Cyotec serves to abort a pregnancy is through the expulsion of the fetus, while Lee’s fetus was found to have no heartbeat and was then surgically removed.
If Welden is found guilty of first-degree murder, which the death of the fetus would be considered under the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, he is legally required to be sentenced to life in prison.
“The Defendant raises a relevant issue as to the strength of the United States’ case relating to whether the United States will be able to meet its burden in establishing that the Cytotec was the cause of the unborn child’s death,” Porcelli wrote. “Curiously, the United States has not proffered nor admitted any expert medical evidence to rebut Dr. Allen’s opinion.
Nonetheless, the significance of Dr. Allen’s opinion is that the causation of the unborn child’s death is a potential issue of fact to be decided either by the District Court or a jury. Dr. Allen’s opinion does not in anyway modify the Defendant’s own statements, which taken alone could still subject the Defendant to significant penalties for an attempt to kill the unborn child.”