Tearful Gosnell Associate: I Just Wanted to Give Care

Eileen O'Neill cried as she testified before a judge during her sentencing hearing

By Emad Khalil and Vince Lattanzio
|  Monday, Jul 15, 2013  |  Updated 2:41 PM PDT
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A woman who worked alongside Dr. Kermit Gosnell inside his West Philadelphia abortion clinic was sentenced today.

NBC10.com

A woman who worked alongside Dr. Kermit Gosnell inside his West Philadelphia abortion clinic was sentenced today.

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The co-defendant in the high-profile trial of former Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell cried before a judge as she asked for leniency in her sentencing.

Eileen O'Neill, 56, was sentenced to six to 23 months house arrest on conspiracy and corruption charges during a sentencing hearing Monday. The house arrest sentencing will be followed by two years probation and she will need to complete 100 hours of community service.

Prosecutors said O'Neill pretended to be a licensed physician at Dr. Gosnell's West Philadelphia clinic, the Women's Medical Society, when in fact she was unlicensed. She did, however, have a medical degree.

The Commonwealth also argued O'Neill lied to insurance companies and patients and billed for services she was not allowed to perform. Her attorney argued there was no evidence O'Neill charged for her services.

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A jury eventually found sufficient evidence to find O'Neill guilty on a number of the charges in May.

During Monday's hearing, members of O'Neill's family took the stand, each calling her a "giver" and praising her generosity to not only the family, but everyone around her.

Paul White, O'Neill's brother, who was a patient at the clinic's general practice and said he met Kermit Gosnell, asked Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart to "have a heart and show mercy."

"I think my sister has suffered enough," he said.

Attorney James Berardinelli called O'Neill's mother to the stand.

Corinne White, who had already sent a letter to Judge Minehart pleading her daughter's case, described how O'Neill does everything for her. She said it would kill her if her daughter was taken into custody.

"Maybe not today, but in two weeks I'd be dead," White said while family members cried.

But Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said she saw a different Eileen O'Neill.

Pescatore described how she traveled to Louisiana to find out more on O'Neill, where the unlicensed doctor had previous troubles while working at a Baton Rouge, La. abortion clinic.

Pescatore claimed that O'Neill was "not always truthful" and cited that she was previously charged with perjury in this trial.

She went into detail on the night of Karnamaya Mongar's death.

Mongar, a 41-year-old immigrant, went into cardiac arrest in Dr. Gosnell's clinic and died the next morning at a nearby hospital.

Pescatore said O'Neill ran upstairs and hid rather than help, and that she ran out of the clinic during an FBI raid "because she had things to hide."

O'Neill herself was the last one to speak, extending her deepest apologies to the court, her family and even the victims.

She said she only wanted to help, and regretted not telling her patients that she did not have a medical license. "I just wanted to give them care," a tearful O'Neill said.

Judge Minehart offered his take on O'Neill's case, saying he was stunned that "someone with so much education can work in these conditions."

The Women's Medical Society, at 3801 Lancaster Avenue, was described by investigators as a "house of horrors." Filthy conditions and even human remains were found throughout the facility.

But the judge offered sympathy and said he did not think the punishment should be at the expense of O'Neill's mother.

O'Neill was tried alongside Dr. Gosnell in his capital murder trial, a proceeding that stretched on for months in Philadelphia. While other clinic employees took plea deals in exchange for their testimony, O'Neill maintained her innocence and fought the charges.

Dr. Gosnell is serving three consecutive life terms for the murder of babies born alive during abortion procedures. O'Neill was not implicated in the murders.

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