By Mary Claire Dale | AP | Oct. 27, 2011
PHILADELPHIA — Two abortion clinic workers pleaded guilty Thursday to third-degree murder in deaths that occurred at a Philadelphia clinic where seven babies were allegedly born alive, then killed with scissors, and a patient died from an overdose of painkillers.
Andrea Moton, 34, admitted her involvement in the stabbing death of one late-term baby that she pulled from a toilet where it had been delivered.
Sherry West, 52, pleaded guilty in the February 2009 death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Bhutanese immigrant who was 19 weeks pregnant. Neither worker was trained or licensed for the work they did at the clinic run by Dr. Kermit Gosnell, authorities said.
Gosnell and nine employees, including his wife, were charged earlier this year after a grand jury report detailed the macabre conditions at the West Philadelphia clinic. Gosnell, the only doctor, and other staff are accused of performing illegal late-term abortions and killing babies born alive by severing their spinal cords with scissors.
Gosnell, who denies the allegations, is being held on $2 million bail.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams called the clinic a "house of horrors" in announcing the charges in January.
Moton, of Upper Darby, knew Gosnell through his niece. She worked evenings to assist with abortions, but, like the others, had no relevant training or license. She assisted with procedures and cut the spinal cords of aborted babies, the grand jury report said.
Moton and West each pleaded guilty to related charges, including taking part in a corrupt organization. West also pleaded guilty to drug delivery causing death.
West, of Newark, Del., may have administered at least some of the fatal dose of Demerol that killed 41-year-old Mongar in November 2009, defense lawyer Michael Wallace said after the hearing. However, he noted that she was the only clinic employee to accompany Mongar to the hospital as she was dying.
According to the grand jury report, West and co-defendant Lynda Williams overmedicated the 4-foot-11, 110-pound Mongar when Gosnell was not at the clinic. West then grabbed her medical file and rode to the hospital with Mongar's family, who spoke little or no English.
"West told them that Mrs. Mongar was unconscious, but not to worry," the grand jury report said.
The medical file was altered by the time hospital doctors got it, and "grossly underestimated" the amount of drugs the woman had received, the report said.
"She's very sorry about the death of that young lady," Wallace said Thursday. "She got caught up in a series of things (at the clinic) that probably she did not realize the significance of."
West was a longtime patient who sought work at the clinic after 22 years with the Veterans Administration, he said. She lost her job there after contracting hepatitis C, the grand jury report said.
She started at Gosnell's clinic in October 2008, making $8 to $10 an hour in cash to perform ultrasound exams, administer anesthesia and monitor patients in the medical room. Prosecutors said she was not licensed or trained to perform those duties, but Wallace disputed that.
"She was doing the same things she was doing at the VA," he said.
West has been in custody on $2 million bail since her arrest in January. She has been cooperating and will continue to do so, even if it means testifying against Gosnell, Wallace said. Gosnell's lawyer did not return a call for comment.
West faces up to 140 years in prison but would likely get far less time given that cooperation.
"She knows she will do time," Wallace said.
Staff had warned Gosnell that West and Williams were sloppy and careless with their work, the grand jury report said. Despite her hepatitis, West often did not wear gloves or take other precautions, and they were haphazard about the amount of drugs given to patients, the report said.
Moton faces up to 120 years in prison. She was one of three employees who were so startled by the size of a nearly 30-week fetus allegedly born alive and killed that they each took pictures of the infant. Moton gave her cellphone photo to the FBI, the grand jury report said.
Neither prosecutors nor her lawyer, Thomas L. McGill Jr., commented after the hearing, citing a gag order.
Ten clinic workers were charged in all in the case. In addition to the pleas entered Thursday, clinic worker Elizabeth Hampton has pleaded guilty to a perjury charge.
Seven others are still awaiting trial, including Gosnell and several others charged with murder.