Lake Success doctor pleads guilty to criminally negligent homicide in botched abortion

Lake Success doctor pleads guilty to criminally negligent homicide in botched abortion

A doctor from Lake Success pleaded guilty last Friday to criminally negligent homicide in a botched abortion that took the life of a 30-year-old woman, avoiding a manslaughter charge that carried a longer sentence through a plea deal.

According to prosecutors, Robert Rho, 53, of Lake Success, lacerated the victim’s cervix, pierced her uterine wall and severed the uterine artery during the abortion procedure. Rho then performed a second surgery to try fixing the damage, prosecutors said, but did not realize she needed emergency medical care.

The patient, Jamie Lee Morales, had been six months pregnant.

The victim was then allowed to leave Liberty Women’s Health of Queens, where Rho maintained a practice, prosecutors said. On the way to her sister’s Bronx residence she became unresponsive, before being transported to a Bronx hospital to be treated for vaginal bleeding. She died later that night.

“Sadly, a 30-year-old woman lost her life as a result of the surgery,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. “The doctor has now accepted responsibility and admitted he failed to realize the damage he’d done and did not provide appropriate and timely medical care following the surgery.”

“He will go to prison as a result of his actions,” Brown added.

Jeffrey Lichtman, Rho’s attorney, said the jury initially seemed “quick to convict” his client because of the emotional resonance of a young woman dying this way. But Rho didn’t get a full medical history from Morales that outlined conditions like a low platelet count that could contribute to excessive bleeding, he said.

“… He really performed this abortion blind in a lot of ways,” Lichtman said.

Rho originally faced up to 15 years in prison for manslaughter. Now he faces up to four years in prison at his June 26 sentencing, although Lichtman said it is likely to be closer to 10 months because he’s “eligible for work release.”

The deal to plead guilty to criminally negligent homicide came “just moments before a jury reached a verdict in his four-week-long trial,” prosecutors said.

Lichtman confirmed this account and said the judge advised prosecutors to “think twice” before backing out of the deal, despite the jury reaching a verdict.

“This was really the best result and it was a really lucky break that there was a very short window in which the jury was deadlocked for us to finally have leverage in this case,” Lichtman said, “and the window shut quickly, as we learned.”

Rho has surrendered his medical license, according to state records.

This marks only the second criminal prosecution in New York for a mishandled abortion, according to news reports. The first came in 1995 when Queens obstetrician David Benjamin was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Guadalupe Negron, 33, who sought a second-trimester abortion.

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