Murder Charges Dismissed Against Abortion Practitioners

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 6, 2012   |   8:22PM   |   Washington, DC

State Prosecutor Ellis Rollins today dismissed criminal murder charges against abortion practitioners Steven Chase Brigham of New Jersey and Nicola Riley of Utah. Rollins indicated in a press release that conflicting opinions of expert witnesses made it impossible to proceed with the prosecutions.

As LifeNews has reported, Steven Chase Brigham and Nicola Irene Riley have been charged with murder related to the deaths of viable babies at an illegal secret abortion clinic that the pair operated in Elkton, Maryland. Brigham is currently in the custody at the Camden County Jail in New Jersey and Riley now faces charges of murder related to the killing of healthy, viable late-term babies at a secret late-term abortion business the two operated.

Brigham was charged with five counts of First-Degree Murder and Riley with one count of First-Degree Murder after a botched abortion at a clandestine Elkton abortion clinic alerted authorities to their bi-state late-term abortion ring. Police investigators discovered the bodies of 35 late-term babies stored in a freezer inside the clinic. Brigham is not licensed to practice in Maryland, and Riley was apparently on her second day of late-term abortion training when she perforated the woman’s uterus and pulled out her bowel. The patient required emergency surgery to save her life.

The decision to drop the charges came even though a trial date had been set. Riley’s trial was scheduled to take place from June 27 through July 18 with a day off for Independence Day and a trial date for Brigham was set for not long after that.

“We denounce the decision of the State Attorney to dismiss these charges and believe it was wrongly made,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue and Pro-Life Nation. “We call on Mr. Rollins to reinstate the charges for the sake of justice and for the safety of the community. The State simply cannot let these abortionists get away with the murder.”

Brigham operated a secret late-term abortion clinic in Elkton, Maryland, even though he had no license to practice in that state. He hired Riley to do late-term abortions there and at his abortion clinic in Baltimore. Brigham would start the late-term abortions at his office in New Jersey, then caravan the laboring women to Elkton where the abortions would be completed. The clandestine abortion scheme was discovered after a woman suffered a life-threatening botched abortion in August, 2010. When police raided the Elkton abortion clinic, they discovered the remains of 35 aborted babies, one of which was 33 weeks gestation.

Brigham’s attorney are asking for the charges to be demised — claiming the deaths of the unborn children occurred in New Jersey and, therefore, the state of Maryland lacks any jurisdiction. They filed a motion saying the arrangement of driving women seeking abortions from New Jersey to Maryland protects him from criminal prosecution in Maryland because Brigham administered drugs that killed the unborn children when the abortion was started in New Jersey.

Brigham’s lawyers also argue the state is wrongly using its unborn victims law, which allows charges to be brought against criminals who kill women and their unborn children in assault and violence cases, to prosecute Brigham. The law includes exemptions for doctors operating under the standards of lawful medical care and they say using the law in the abortion context is unconstitutional.

“By bringing these charges, the state has placed a chilling effect on doctors who perform abortions and thus will inhibit women from finding doctors who perform abortions even if the procedure is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman,” attorneys Nancy Forster and C. Thomas Brown argue, according to AP.

At a hearing, AP indicates Deputy State’s Attorney Kerwin Miller said, “The law is clear that it is unlawful, as a matter of fact it is homicide, when you kill a viable fetus. So an abortion on a viable fetus is not a lawful procedure, is not lawful medical care.”

AP reports:  “In their motion, Brigham’s attorneys also take issue with prosecutors’ characterization of the fetuses as viable, arguing that the state has no right to interfere with a doctor’s judgment about the need for an abortion. Maryland’s fetal homicide law, the attorneys argue, “leaves the determination of viability to the ‘best medical judgment of the attending physician.’ If a doctor determines that the fetus is not viable, for whatever reason, and the state disagrees with that determination, under their theory, the doctor can be charged with fetal homicide.”

Newman says the State of New Jersey suspended Brigham’s medical license claiming his late-term abortion operation showed “flagrant disregard or the Board’s regulations regarding termination of pregnancy and thus presents a clear and imminent danger to the public.” Briefs filed by New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Jeri L. Wartifig in support of Brigham’s suspension indicated that D.B.’s abortion and othesr done in Elkton violated the “standards of medical practice” in several ways.

Newman said those included the facts that Brigham was banned from starting abortions after 14 weeks in New Jersey, he dangerously transported women in full labor miles away to a facility in a state where he had no medical license and no emergency hospital arrangements, and that he was aware that Riley was unqualified to do the risky late-term “D & E” abortions he hired her to do.

While unqualified, Riley still conducted abortions under Brigham’s supervision and advice even though she was well aware that Brigham did not have a license to practice in Maryland, he added.

“It will be interesting to see how the Maryland State Prosecutors will try Brigham and Riley. It seems that there is plenty of evidence already in the record in New Jersey and with the Maryland Board of Physicians, to indicate the abortions that led to the murder charges were done illegally and outside the standard of medical practice to the extent that two states determined Brigham’s bi-state late-term abortion scheme posed ‘a clear and imminent danger to the public.’ The law only seems to give immunity from prosecution to those who are acting within the standards of medical practice,” he said.

Newman added, “This case raises the interesting question of why the law allows for the protection of viable babies on one hand and the killing of viable babies on the other based solely on how the mother feels about her pregnancy at any particular point in time. On one point the killer is prosecuted, on the other, he is immune. The coexistence of these two contradictory and incompatible legal doctrines must be reconciled, and maybe this will be the case to do it once and for all in favor of protecting innocent life.”

Brigham was arraigned in Maryland and released on $500,000 bond on January 6, 2012.

In another development, Brigham has filed motions to suppress evidence against him, including evidence obtained by search and seizure. He is asking that he and Riley be tried separately and that each offense be tried in separate trials.

“The legal wrangling and attempts at delay have already begun,” said Newman. “It is obvious that Brigham is trying to cost the state lots of money to try him. We hope the judge in this matter sees through this obstructive kind of defense and denies Brigham’s motions so that he can more forward to a speedy trial.”

The charges are the result of a Grand Jury investigation. While late-term abortions are not illegal in Maryland, those who kill viable babies killed in the commission of crimes can be charged with murder in that state under the state’s unborn victims law.

The Times Union newspaper has dug further into the case and discovered that “state investigators discovered 17 frozen fetuses in 1996″ at a Brigham abortion facility in New York. However, charges were never bought against Brigham and John Meekins, a former assistant attorney general who worked the case, told the newspaper he “encountered political pressure against the investigation from the Albany Democratic machine, including a judge who had ties to the Colonie clinic’s landlord.”

Had the New York attorney general filed charges in connection with the apparently illegal late-term abortions, Brighman’s later exploits may have been prevented.

Brigham was released on January 6, from the Cecil County Detention Facility after posting a $500,000 bail with a combination of personal assets and the use of a bail bondsman.

Riley and Brigham were caught when Riley perforated the uterus and bowel of a late-term abortion patient. Their suspicious behavior at the hospital emergency room, where they had transported the bleeding patient in a rental car, raised red flags with ER workers who reported them to the police. Their clinic was later raided by police, who discovered the bodies of 35 aborted babies in a freezer. The babies were as old as 36 weeks gestation, according to documents seized during the raid.

At the time of their arrests, Brigham and Riley were banned from doing abortions in any state.

The two abortion practitioners who have been charged with murder for doing late-term abortions in the state of Maryland had long, sordid pasts including brushes with the law and putting women’s health at risk.

Brigham is no stranger to causing problems with his abortion clinics. Brigham has had his medical license suspended in other states for killing and injuring women in botched abortions.

Back in May, inspectors found Allentown Medical Services had multiple health and safety problems that could endanger women’s health and it continues to operate amid the complaints. Officials indicated the abortion facility received citations concerning using unsterilized instruments on women, having drugs and reproductive devices on hand that were past their expiration date. Abortion clinic inspectors also found blood splattered on the walls and floor of a freezer, according to a report the Pennsylvania Health Department made public.

Newman provided more details about what was found.

“Violations found during an inspection that took place on May 26, 2011, discovered out-of-date medicine, metal instruments with a brown material in the hinges and inside the supposedly sterile packaging, surgical instruments tossed in unsterilized drawers, and surgical instruments stored in a “musty” smelling suitcase in broken wrappers – all of which were considered by employees to be ready for use on patients,” Newman said. “Also discovered was a freezer where “Infectious Waste”, (the remains of aborted babies), was stored that was smeared with what an employee acknowledged was blood and contained a thick layer of frozen blood in the bottom. Dirty recovery room blankets and a dangerous lack of patient monitoring were also documented. No plan has been to correct these egregious violations has been filed, yet the abortion clinic continues to operate.”

The abortion facility operates under the name Allentown Medical Services but it has new owners. It changed hands after Brigham was prohibited from operating in Pennsylvania because of so many botched abortions and violations of health and safety laws for medical clinics. He gave up his Pennsylvania medical licensed because of problems in 1992 but was allowed to operate abortion centers administratively until the state finally clamped down on that practice.

State officials said AMS “failed to maintain a safe and sanitary environment” and devices used in abortions had been sterilized but not wrapped to ensure they stayed that way. Several packages of surgical instruments “had an accumulation of brown debris in the hinge areas and brown staining on the inside of the packages” even though an AMS employee told officials they were sterilized and ready for use.

In July, 2010, Brigham was banned by the State of Pennsylvania from operating or controlling any abortion clinics in Pennsylvania, citing violations that endangered the public. Brigham circumvented the order by transferring ownership of his clinics to Rose Health Services, a company said to be owned by Brigham’s mother.

“There are certainly ongoing relationships between Brigham and the remaining Pennsylvania abortion clinics. We believe those relationships violate the Pennsylvania Health Department’s order,” said Cheryl Sullenger, Senior Policy Advisor for Operation Rescue. “We are looking into what legal action can be taken to stop his dangerous Pennsylvania abortion mills from operating.”

He gave up his Pennsylvania medial licensed because of problems in 1992 but was allowed to operate abortion centers administratively until the state finally clamped down on that practice.