PHILADELPHIA (AP)—A doctor accused of running a filthy abortion clinic and using scissors to kill babies should sell assets if necessary to hire a lawyer for his murder trial because he doesn’t qualify for a public defender, a judge ruled Friday.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, of West Philadelphia, is charged with killing a patient during a botched abortion and using scissors to sever the spinal cords of seven viable babies born alive. His wife, Pearl Gosnell, a cosmetologist accused of performing abortions, is among 10 clinic employees charged last month after a lengthy grand jury investigation.
A judge urged the Gosnells, who are detained, to get counsel before a preliminary hearing scheduled Feb. 9. A criminal lawyer who represented Kermit Gosnell during the investigation has stepped down.
Gosnell, 69, made millions of dollars over 30 years, performing as many illegal, late-term abortions as he could, prosecutors said. His patients were subjected to squalid and barbaric conditions at his Women’s Medical Society, where he performed dozens of abortions a day, prosecutors said. He mostly worked overnight hours after his untrained staff administered drugs to induce labor during the day, they said.
Early last year, authorities went to investigate drug-related complaints at the clinic and stumbled upon what District Attorney Seth Williams called a “house of horrors.”
Gosnell, in his court appearance Friday, waved at a news reporter in the courtroom, prompting Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes to warn that the hearing was not a social event.
“You need to focus,” she said.
Prosecutors say the Gosnells own 17 properties in four states, along with a boat, but the couple described themselves as nearly destitute.
“I asked for a public defender, but I’m not eligible because I have assets?” Kermit Gosnell asked.
The couple acknowledged owning a half-dozen of the properties, but Kermit Gosnell said he didn’t want to sell them because he still has to support his youngest child.
The judge noted some of his adult children could care for the youngster.
“Your first priority is to get a lawyer,” she told him.
Four other employees, accused of having roles in the clinic deaths, also are charged with murder. The others are charged with helping to run a corrupt enterprise or other crimes.