Ohio man pleads guilty in abortion-gunpoint case

AP News
Posted: Apr 28, 2011 1:56 PM
Ohio man pleads guilty in abortion-gunpoint case

A man charged under an Ohio fetal homicide law for taking his pregnant girlfriend to an abortion clinic at gunpoint pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted murder, weapons and abduction counts.

Dominic Holt-Reid, 28, pulled a gun Oct. 6 on girlfriend Yolanda Burgess and forced her to drive to the clinic, police said. Burgess, who was who was three months pregnant and 26 years old at the time, did not go through with the procedure but instead passed a note to a clinic employee, who called police. She has since delivered a healthy baby.

Prosecutors brought their case against Holt-Reid using a 1996 law that says a person can be found guilty of murder for causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said he was satisfied with the plea agreement, under which several charges were dropped. Weapons specifications attached to the attempted murder and abduction charges, which could automatically have meant more prison time, also were eliminated.

Under the deal, Holt-Reid faces up to 20 years in prison and a $40,000 fine. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Sheeran ordered a pre-sentencing investigation, and the next hearing was scheduled for June 9.

Holt-Reid's attorney, Larry Shoemaker, said he was pleased that weapons specifications were dropped.

"I'm trying to salvage the gentleman's future here, so that's the basis for the plea more so than a heartfelt belief that he is guilty of attempted murder," he said.

Shoemaker said he plans to argue in June that Holt-Reid's actions did not risk Burgess' unborn child and so are distinguished from murder cases O'Brien has argued under the statute in the past. He'll be pushing for a sentence of closer to three years rather than the 20-year maximum, he said.

"The judge will have to decide. If he sees it our way, it's not quite as serious, as we're believing it is, or it's very serious as Mr. O'Brien stated," he said. "You can tell by reading some of the comments in the blogosphere that people will go either way."

Shoemaker described his client as remorseful and overwhelmed. He said Holt-Reid has not spoken to Burgess since October, but he believes the two intend to continue their relationship.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Rausch told Judge Patrick Sheeran during Thursday's proceeding that her child has been born and both mother and baby are fine.

Holt-Reid had previously pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, kidnapping, improper handling of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon.

The Ohio fetal homicide law and statues like it in other states have typically been used to win convictions in car crashes in which a pregnant woman died and in cases involving attacks on expectant mothers. Legal experts have said they were unfamiliar with such a law being cited in a case similar to Holt-Reid's.

O'Brien said he was comfortable using the fetal homicide statute against Holt-Reid, because Holt-Reid's intention was to end Burgess' pregnancy.

"We've prosecuted cases where a fetus was a victim of the homicide several times, but this is the first case like this that I've seen," he said.