Late-term abortion doctor arraigned for murder in Maryland
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - One of two doctors accused of murder for performing late-term abortions in Maryland was arraigned on Friday and freed on $500,000 bail.
Attorneys for the second, Dr. Nicola Irene Riley, who remains held without bail in Utah since her arrest December 28, filed a motion asking that the Maryland prosecutor be held in contempt of court. That is for allegedly stalling her case and withholding information but also sharing it with the media in order to press "a hot-button political issue," they said.
Riley and her former employer, Dr. Steven Chase Brigham, 55, of New Jersey, who owns abortion clinics in multiple states, are charged with murder for allegedly starting late-term abortions in New Jersey and completing them in Maryland, which has looser restrictions about where abortions can be performed.
The case may be the first to test Maryland's fetal homicide law, under which murder charges can be brought against people who "intend to cause the death of a viable fetus."
Riley's lawyers contend the precedent-setting nature of the case caused Cecil County State's Attorney Ellis Rollins III and Elkton Police Chief William Ryan Sr. to release information about the doctor's case to the media before unsealing the indictment against her. They asked the court to hold Rollins and Ryan in contempt of court.
"It is clear that Mr. Rollins's tactics are a ploy to gain traction on a hot-button political issue in the media and with public opinion without any regard for the powers of this court or the rights of the defendant," said the motion filed in Cecil County Circuit Court by Riley's lawyer Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum.
"This process should not be run the way it's being run," Krevor-Weisbaum told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
Ryan did not return a call seeking comment. Rollins declined to comment.
Riley, who is charged with one count of first-degree murder and other charges, is awaiting an extradition hearing in Utah on January 9.
Brigham, meanwhile, was returned from New Jersey to Maryland. He was arraigned on Friday on five counts of first-degree murder, each for killing a "viable" fetus in July and August 2010, according to the indictment.
Brigham posted $500,000 bail and was released from custody, his attorney Thomas Brown said.
"Dr. Brigham has not violated any Maryland laws," Brown said in a statement on Friday.
Maryland authorities said they brought the murder charges after conducting a 16-month criminal investigation triggered by the botched abortion of a woman nearly six months pregnant.
Brigham has a history of bungled late-term abortions, according to a New York State Department of Health report.
The report said his medical license was suspended in 1994 after he performed abortions on two women who were more than 24 weeks pregnant. Exhibiting "gross negligence," the report said, Brigham in both cases injured the woman's uterus during the abortion and failed to properly transport her to a hospital.
According to New York law, an abortion is considered a felony if performed on a woman more than 24 weeks pregnant, unless the procedure is "necessary to preserve her life." No criminal charges were filed against Brigham in New York.
Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman for the New York Attorney General's office, said the statute of limitations of five years has expired on any possible charges against Brigham.
(Additional reporting by Dan Wiessner in Albany; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Bohan)
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