Judge allows bail, house arrest for abortion doctor Gosnell's wife

Pearl Gosnell was arrested Jan. 19.
Pearl Gosnell was arrested Jan. 19.
Posted: April 05, 2011

Saying he did not believe she would leave behind a 13-year-old daughter she has not seen in 11 weeks, a Philadelphia judge Monday told Pearl Gosnell that she could be released on house arrest while she and her husband await trial over the operation of his West Philadelphia abortion clinic.

Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner said Gosnell, 50, could be on electronically monitored house arrest after posting $50,000 bond.

Nevertheless, Lerner said Gosnell could not leave the house on North 32d Street except for court without first getting approval from pretrial service personnel.

Lerner noted that the charges against Gosnell - participating in an illegal late-term abortion, conspiracy, and helping operate a corrupt organization - were not as serious as the murder charges facing her husband and several former employees.

But he also dismissed the argument of Gosnell's new defense attorney, F. Michael Medway, that state sentencing guidelines would mean only nine to 16 months in prison if she were convicted.

"The charges against her allege that she was an integral part of a much, much more serious series of offenses," Lerner said. "This is no guidelines case."

Gosnell did not appear to have any reaction to Lerner's decision, announced at a brief hearing in which Medway, a veteran Center City criminal defense lawyer, represented her for the first time.

On March 18, Lerner disqualified Gosnell's first lawyer, Mary T. Maran, ruling that Maran would pose a conflict of interest in the Gosnells' defense because Maran is an associate of Jack McMahon, the lawyer for Kermit Gosnell, 70.

Pearl Gosnell had been held on $1 million bail since Jan. 19, when she, her husband, and eight workers at their Women's Medical Society clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave. were charged by the District Attorney's Office. The charges followed a 260-page grand jury report alleging Gosnell performed illegal late-term abortions, killing infants born alive and viable.

Assistant District Attorneys Christine Wechsler and Joanne Pescatore argued against reducing bail, saying Pearl Gosnell had money and friends in California, New York, Texas, and Virginia, and so could flee before trial.

Medway called Gosnell a "devoted parent who would not do anything to cause her daughter any further harm."

The Gosnells have two children. The girl, who attends school in the city, has been cared for by a neighbor since her parents' arrest. An 18-year-old son is at Cheyney University. Kermit Gosnell has four adult children by a prior marriage.

Bail is not an option for Kermit Gosnell, who is charged with third-degree murder in the death of a woman during a 2009 abortion and seven counts of first-degree murder involving infants born alive and allegedly killed by him. Prosecutors say they are considering the death penalty if Gosnell is convicted of first-degree murder.

Before Monday's ruling, four of the 10 defendants were freed pending trial, including two others whose bail Lerner reduced in March.

Like Gosnell, three others are being held without bail and one on $2 million bail.

The case is back before Lerner on April 13, when defense lawyers outline their pretrial motions and Lerner sets hearing dates.


Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

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