05/29/2013 08:24 am ET

Pennsylvania Abortion Clinic Workers Face Sentencing



PHILADELPHIA — In their own way, the four women being sentenced this week for working at a corrupt, grimy Philadelphia abortion clinic were just as desperate as their patients.

Lynda Williams, 44, was trying to raise four children after her husband was murdered.

Sherry West, 53, had been waiting more than a year for disability after contracting hepatitis C through her work as a medical assistant at a Veterans Administration Hospital, where she had spent 20 years.

Adrienne Moton, 36, was steered to the Women's Medical Society through a career school, where she was studying to be a medical assistant. And Elizabeth Hampton, 55, had been in foster care as a girl with the third wife of clinic owner Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

All but Hampton have pleaded guilty to murder in the deaths of babies born alive or an oversedated patient. Hampton was sentenced Tuesday to a year on probation after admitting she lied to a grand jury about a patient's overdose death in 2009.

Williams, West and Moton Wednesday face 20 to 40 years in prison for third-degree murder, but they are expected to get far less time after their testimony helped send Gosnell to prison for life for killing three babies born alive during abortions.

Also scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday is Gosnell's wife, Pearl, 51, who has spent two years on house arrest and could be sent to prison for racketeering and performing an illegal abortion. She feels she's left "holding the bag" after her husband shamed the family, turned down a plea deal that would have kept her out of prison, and refused to speak at his trial, her lawyer said Tuesday.

"You can tell from the arrogance that he displayed – turning down the deal, as well as refusing to speak – he's left her holding the bag in terms of talking to the public and apologizing," defense lawyer Michael Medway told The Associated Press.

"Her name is still Gosnell, unfortunately," he added. "I guess it's like being Mrs. Frankenstein."

West's lawyer described Gosnell as a controlling, charismatic figure who manipulated naive, poor and uneducated employees. She pleaded guilty to murder for helping give narcotics to the patient who died, although she was the only employee who also accompanied the dying woman to the hospital.

"He had a bit of Svengali control over these women," lawyer Michael Wallace said last week. "She was doing about 100 different things for this guy. It was such a hectic operation."

Gosnell, 72, was convicted this month of three counts of first-degree murder in the infant deaths, and involuntary manslaughter in the death of patient Karnamaya Mongar.

Gosnell had West and Williams – both medical assistants suffering from depression – and a teenager on duty delivering anesthesia the night Mongar came in, according to trial testimony.

"He preyed upon them, too, just as he did his patients," Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said last week. "They were used and abused."

Moton, a family friend, had moved in with the Gosnells in high school, then worked at the clinic from 2005 to 2008. She earned $8 to $10 an hour.

But she could make $120 on a busy Saturday, when Gosnell performed what he called "second trimester" cases and gave staff $20 per patient. Prosecutors charge that some of those procedures were illegal third-term abortions.

"I kept doing whatever I was told," Moton told the jury.

That included cutting the necks of at least 10 babies after they were born. Gosnell told her it was standard procedure, she said.

Gosnell agreed to serve a life term without parole rather than face a death-penalty hearing. In exchange, he has waived his right to appeal.

Gosnell, West and several others also face more time on federal drug charges involving the clinic's distribution of narcotics.

Later this year, an unlicensed doctor who often ran the clinic during Gosnell's frequent absences will be sentenced to two counts of third-degree murder.

Stephen Massof said he went to work when he needed "a fallback plan" after stints in laboratory research, medical school and bartending.

He ended up "snipping" babies in the back of the neck during unorthodox abortion techniques that Gosnell had taught him. Massof said he may have done it 100 times. But he's pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree murder.

Many of the Gosnell co-defendants have already been in prison for more than two years, since a 2011 grand jury report lifted the veil on what prosecutors called a "house of horrors."

They will be sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner, who handled pretrial pleas, but did not preside at the trial itself.

Lerner has more discretion than usual; the Gosnell co-defendants entered "open" pleas, rather than negotiate a proposed sentence with prosecutors.

"If it were up to me, she'd get probation," Wallace said of his client.



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