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May 19, 2019

Queens doc who killed woman in botched abortion gets short prison sentence, taking plea deal moments before jury’s verdict

June 27, 2018
Dr. Robert Rho, who killed a patient in a 2016 abortion at his Flushing, Queens, clinic, took plea deal just before jury handed judge a note that it had reached a verdict. (Frank Franklin II / AP)

A Queens doctor got a short prison sentence after killing a patient in a botched 2016 abortion – possibly dodging 15 years behind bars by hammering out a plea deal moments before a jury reached a verdict.

Dr. Robert Rho was sentenced to one-and-a-third to four years in prison for criminally negligent homicide in the July 9, 2016, death of 30-year-old Jamie Lee Morales. He could be out in less than a year, his lawyer told the Daily News on Tuesday.

Rho was on trial for manslaughter, and could have gotten five to 15 years behind bars. His jury deadlocked after three days, and his lawyer cut a deal with prosecutors “10 seconds” before the jury handed the judge a note it had reached a verdict.

“We never found out the verdict,” defense lawyer Jeff Lichtman said, who wrote about the May 4 courtroom drama on his law blog.

Rho ripped Morales’ cervix during the abortion, and after she started bleeding heavily, he performed a second procedure. But that didn’t fix the problem, and Rho sent Morales home with her sister, who lives in the Bronx.

During the four-week trial, prosecutors characterized Rho as greedy and arrogant, and argued that he rushed her out the door of his Flushing, Queens, clinic because he wanted to see other patients. She lost consciousness in her sister’s backseat, and died at a Bronx hospital.

Witnesses testified that state officials were already looking into the doctor before Morales’ death because they suspected he was performing improper procedures and using untrained assistants.

“Obviously, this is a sad day for both families. Both families have been destroyed by what occurred that day,” Lichtman said. “This was a case of negligence. That’s why the jury deadlocked, and that’s why Dr. Rho was permitted to take a plea to a lesser charge.”

Rho had rejected an earlier plea deal for three to nine years in prison, Lichtman said.

“This was a very sad case. A 30-year-old woman, who had recently graduated from college and had her whole life ahead of her, died as the result of this botched procedure,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement Tuesday. “The doctor has accepted responsibility and admitted his failure to provide adequate care following surgery.”

Rho, a Columbia-trained reconstructive gynecological surgeon, specialized in vaginal rejuvenation procedures.

With Wire Services

Jamie Lee Morales, 30, died after botched abortion and a failed second surgery.
Jamie Lee Morales, 30, died after botched abortion and a failed second surgery. (GoFundMe)

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