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‘A hard pill for this court to swallow’: Judge says child rapist in high-profile Indiana abortion case has a chance of parole only because victim’s family ‘begged’ for the sentence


Gerson Fuentes appears in court for his plea agreement hearing and sentencing on July 5, 2023 (screengrab via NBC4i/WCMH)

The man accused of raping a 9-year-old girl who crossed state lines for an abortion to end the resulting pregnancy has pleaded guilty and could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Gerson Fuentes, 28, pleaded guilty to one count of rape of a child under 10 and one count of rape on Wednesday, according to court records and media reports. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys recommended a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, Columbus, Ohio, NBC affiliate WCMH reported.

In recounting the details of the offense, prosecutors noted that at the “time of conception,” the victim was only 9 years old. Prosecutors also noted that Fuentes was living in the girl’s home at the time of the assault and that he was the victim’s mother’s boyfriend.

At the hearing, Franklin County Court of Common Please Judge Julie Lynch indicated displeasure with the sentence but said she would honor the wishes of the victim’s family.

“Anybody who has ever been in this courtroom for the last 20 years knows how this court feels about babies, young people being violated,” Lynch said from the bench before issuing the sentence. “However, today, by the request of the family, this court will be sentencing without comment. And everyone knows how hard that’s going to be for me, because the court considers this the worst of the offense.”

“But the family has asked for me to sentence without comment,” the judge continued. “The family has agreed to this and this is a hard pill for this court to swallow, to take this joint recommendation. If that family hadn’t begged me to take this joint recommendation, this would never be happening.”

Lynch then sentenced Fuentes to a combined sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years.

Court records show Fuentes’ trial was initially set to start Wednesday.

The plea comes around one year after Dr. Caitlin Bernard told the Indianapolis Star that she provided abortion care to a 10-year-old girl — the victim in this case — who feared she would not be able to get an abortion in her home state of Ohio due to the state’s newly enacted six-week abortion ban.

Bernard’s story sparked national headlines and a severe backlash led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who accused Bernard of violating state law and pledged to have her license revoked. Bernard has since been exonerated of wrongdoing and Rokita’s effort to strip the doctor of her license failed.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Gerson confirmed that he is not a citizen of the U.S. and may face deportation.

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