Gosnell Abortion Clinic Staffer Who Pretended to be a Doctor Granted New Trial

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 22, 2015   |   1:33PM   |   Washington, DC

An abortion clinic staffer who worked at the House of Horrors abortion clinic Kermit Gosnell ran and who was previously sentenced to house arrest after she was found guilty on multiple counts, has been granted a new trial.

Gosnell was found guilty on hundreds of counts, including three first-degree murder charges of killing babies in a gruesome abortion-infanticide method.

O’Neill was on trial with Gosnell on charges of theft by Deception, Conspiracy to commit theft, Racketeering, Conspiracy related to corruption, Perjury, and False Swearing. She was found guilty Monday of conspiracy, participation in a corrupt organization, and two counts of theft by deception.

O’Neill was acquitted of five additional counts of theft by deception.

During closing arguments, the attorney for O’Neill requested an acquittal and said there is  no crime called “practicing medicine without a license.”

During her time working at Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” abortion clinic, O’Neill deceived patients into thinking she was a licensed physician or at least some kind of licensed medical staffer.

Now, an appeals court has granted O’Neill a new trial:

However the Associated Press reported today that O’Neill is about to get a new trial. “The Pennsylvania Superior Court says O’Neill should have been granted a separate trial,” rather than being tried with Gosnell, who is serving three consecutive life sentences for delivering babies alive and then killing them by sticking scissors into the back of their necks and cutting their spinal cords.

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eileenoneill“An appeals court says the disturbing evidence about babies being killed at Gosnell’s clinic unfairly prejudiced co-defendant Eileen O’Neill,” the AP reported.

Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Joseph A. Slobodzian, who did the best reporting on Gosnell, explained that Judge “Minehart made it clear O’Neill would have gone to prison were she not sole caretaker for her seriously ill mother, Corrine White, with whom she lives in Phoenixville.” Minehart added, “You have to serve some form of punishment, but I don’t think it has to be at the expense of your mother.”

But there was much more to O’Neill, as the Associated Press’ MaryClaire Dale made clear (Dale also did some brilliant reporting on the trial). Dale wrote

“O’Neill, a former paralegal, attended medical school in Texas, but was then kicked out of a Louisiana State University residency program after she performed a botched abortion on a mentally disabled teenager, Assistant Philadelphia District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said. The procedure left the girl with a permanent colostomy bag, she said.

“O’Neill performed the abortion while moonlighting at a clinic linked to one in Delaware where Gosnell worked.

“O’Neill finished her family practice residency at Reading Hospital, then made her way to Gosnell’s clinic, the Women’s Medical Society, in West Philadelphia.”

At trial Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said she was “sick and tired” of O’Neill always “playing the victim.”

“She knew what she was doing and she knew what was going on in that place,” Pescatore argued. “How could you not know what was going on there? You’d have to be deaf, dumb, blind and stupid!”

Lisa Dungee was a patient at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society in 2009. She saw unlicensed medical school graduate Eileen O’Neill, who is also standing trial along with her former boss, for an early non-surgical abortion. Dungee testified that she never received counseling prior to her abortion. She admitted that she signed a form indicating that she had been given informed consent 24 hours prior to the abortion, but was adamant that she signed the forms on the same day her abortion began.

“When I came in to the facility, I already had my mind made up about what I wanted to do, so yes, I signed it,” she testified.

Dungee testified that she thought O’Neill was a licensed physician because she wore a white coat and had certificates on the wall of her office. No one ever told her that O’Neill held no valid medical license.

According to Dungee, O’Neill gave her one pill to take at the clinic and one pill to take later at home along with a prescription for antibiotics. She said she never saw Gosnell at the clinic, who should have been consulted before drugs were prescribed.

Dungee never returned to O’Neill for her follow-up appointment due to the filthy conditions at the clinic. Instead she saw her own physician for follow-up care. Dungee insisted under oath that O’Neill nor anyone else from the clinic, called to see how she was doing, even though O’Neill noted in the records that such a follow-up call had been placed.

Another point of interest in Dungee’s testimony was introduced by O’Neill’s defense attorney, James Berardinelli. Berardinelli insisted that since Dungee did not actually expel her four-week baby until 24 hours after she took the first abortion pill, then the 24-hour waiting period had been observed.

During the trial, Natalie Tursi was allowed to testify for the defense because she was scheduled for back surgery the following day and would not be available to testify afterwards for medical reasons.

Tursi was a friend of Eileen O’Neill’s who arrived for a visit at her home while she was being interviewed by law enforcement personnel. Tursi also is the on-and-off live-in girlfriend of O’Neill’s brother.

Tursi testified that she arrived at O’Neill’s home and walked into the kitchen where O’Neill and four men were talking. She immediately felt unwelcome, so she retreated to the living room, and later the bathroom due to the “confrontational” nature of the conversation. She testified that she overheard only bits and pieces of the kitchen conversation, but recalled hearing one man tell O’Neill that if she ever wanted to practice medicine or obtain a medical license, “You will be a witness.”

However, upon cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron, Tursi admitted she conveniently did not hear other statements reportedly made by O’Neill to the men, including the admission that she ducked out the back door during the police raid on the clinic in 2010, fearing she would be in trouble since she did not have a license to practice medicine. Cameron also indicated that O’Neill made the statement to law enforcement interviewers that about seventy-five percent of what she did at Gosnell’s clinic was done in Gosnell’s absence, indicating that she had no physician oversight as she conducted the duties of a licensed physician. The conclusion was that Tursi’s memory was selective, at best.

In a surprising moment, Cameron asked if O’Neill had an attorney present during questioning. Tursi indicated that O’Neill did not. She offered that while O’Neill is very book smart, “common-sense wise, I don’t think she has it.”

“You are saying she doesn’t have common sense?” asked Cameron for emphasis.

“No. I’m sorry to say it,” she replied.

Mary Kincade had been a patient at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society clinic for about ten years and was last seen five to six years ago. She said she only saw Eileen O’Neill, who other clinic workers referred to as “Doctor” even though she had no license to practice in Pennsylvania. Kincade was not an abortion patient, but saw O’Neill for yearly well woman exams. Kincade never saw Gosnell at the clinic during any of her visits.

Kincade thought O’Neill was a licensed physician and noted that certificates hung on the wall of her office, which led her to believe they allowed her to practice medicine.

There was a discrepancy in Kincade’s patient file concerning co-payments for office visits. Kincade testified that she remitted a co-pay of $30-40 each time she saw O’Neill. However, in her file, there was only one receipt for $40 to indicate she ever paid any money. The inference of this testimony was that there were irregularities in the billing and record-keeping practices at Gosnell’s clinic, although prosecutors did not fully detail their theory concerning what appeared to be evidence of financial malfeasance during today’s court proceedings.