Last year, the story of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who traveled to Indiana to get an abortion became a flashpoint in the national abortion debate. On Wednesday, the Ohio man who was accused of raping the girl pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The man, Gerson Fuentes, 28, appeared in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Columbus, Ohio, where he entered into a plea deal on two counts of rape, which gives him the possibility of parole after 25 years, according to live broadcasts by local media inside the classroom.
Mr Fuentes, who was arrested in July last year, had previously pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony rape of the girl, who was 9 years old at the time, court and police records show. The trial was scheduled to begin Jan. 9 but was delayed due to plea deals, investigations and scheduling, a prosecutor, Dan Meyer, said that month.
Zachary Olah, Mr. Fuentes’ attorney, was not immediately available for comment.
A Columbus Police Department report on the incident said Mr. Fuentes was arrested after the girl went to a doctor, who determined she was pregnant. Mr. Fuentes has been charged with the rape of a child under the age of 13, an offense which can carry a life sentence. He was being held on a $2 million bond.
G. Gary Tyack, the prosecutor for Franklin County, announced in July 2022 that a grand jury had returned an indictment charging Mr. Fuentes with two counts of rape. Prosecutors say the attacks took place between January 1 and May 12 of last year.
The story of the girl was first reported by The Indianapolis Star. A video of the court hearing released by conservative news site Townhall last year showed testimony from Columbus Police Detective Jeffrey Huhn, who said the girl’s mother took her to Indiana for the abortion at the end of June last year, when she was just six weeks pregnant.
She said Mr. Fuentes had confessed to raping the girl twice.
The Columbus Dispatch before reported about the arrest and connection to the girl, who was 10 when she crossed state lines to receive an abortion, in a case that captured national attention.
In June 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade. The decision was followed by a wave of abortion restrictions, including a law in Ohio that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. That law prevented the girl from receiving an abortion in her home state, where sex with someone under the age of 13 it’s a first-degree felony.
Ohio’s case fueled heated public and political controversy over whether the story was true, with President Biden and abortion-rights advocates pointing to the girl’s experience as the tragic consequence of abortion bans. Conservatives questioned whether the child existed and Ohio Attorney General David Yost he initially said he found no evidence of such a victim.
After the arrest, Mr. Yost issued a statement saying that his « heart aches with the pain this child has suffered ».