Ohioan Pleads Not Guilty in Gunpoint Abortion Case

Ohioan Pleads Not Guilty in Gunpoint Abortion Case

Posted: 10/21/2010 07:43 AM EDT

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A father of six pleaded not guilty Wednesday to an attempted murder charge that accuses him of trying to force his girlfriend at gunpoint to have an abortion.

Authorities say Dominic Holt-Reid pointed a handgun at his pregnant girlfriend and forced her to drive to a women's clinic, where she was able to slip a note to an employee who got help. She was not harmed.

Holt-Reid entered the not guilty plea in Franklin County Common Pleas Court and was ordered held on $350,000 bond. A public defense attorney for him did not comment.

In court, public defender Priya Tamilarasan said Holt-Reid is a lifelong Columbus resident and father of six children who lives with his aunt. He attends Columbus State Community College full time, taking classes on heating and air conditioning, school spokesman David Wayne said.

The attempted murder count was filed because Holt-Reid tried "at gunpoint to force her to have an abortion against her will," county prosecutor Ron O'Brien said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

O'Brien said Ohio previously rewrote its murder law to prohibit the "unlawful termination of a pregnancy" to avoid a debate over an unborn fetus' legal rights. The statute has allowed his office to win convictions on two counts in murder cases in which the victim was pregnant, he said.

The Columbus Dispatch first reported O'Brien's filing.

Police said Holt-Reid had become angry with Yolanda Burgess because she refused to go through with an abortion scheduled Oct. 6 at a women's clinic. After the two dropped their 5-year-old child off at school, Holt-Reid took a loaded .45-caliber handgun out of the glove compartment of Burgess' car, aimed it at her, threatened her and forced her to drive to the clinic, police said.

Once there, Burgess was able to slip a note to an employee, who notified police.

It was unclear Wednesday whether Burgess still is pregnant and, if so, how many months. A woman answering the phone at a listing for Yolanda Burgess said it was a wrong number.

Federal court documents and the Bureau of Prisons show that Holt-Reid served a 20-month sentence in federal prison stemming from a 2007 drug conviction and is on supervised release. A message left with the attorney who represented Holt-Reid in the federal case was not immediately returned.

Convicting Holt-Reid of attempted murder may be difficult because several other steps would have had to take place to end the pregnancy, said Joshua Dressler, an Ohio State University criminal law professor.

"Is this really now attempted murder ... particularly since he can't, if you will, pull the trigger?" Dressler said. "It's going to have to be done by someone else."

The Ohio law was passed in 1996 after a campaign by a Middletown man whose wife and unborn son were killed in a car wreck. Supporters of the bill at the time said they were not trying to affect abortion rights.

A Cincinnati woman in May 1997 was the first person convicted under the law. In that case, she was accused of causing a car accident that killed a woman and her unborn son.

In other states, prosecutors last year in Utah charged a 17-year-old girl who was seven-months pregnant with first-degree felony criminal solicitation to commit murder after she allegedly paid a man to beat her up so she would have a miscarriage. Court documents said the fetus survived.

In 2008, Wisconsin prosecutors charged a man with attempted first-degree intentional homicide of an unborn child after his pregnant girlfriend suspected he gave her a drink spiked with RU-486, a drug used to induce abortions.

At least 38 states including Ohio have so-called fetal homicide laws increasing penalties for crimes against pregnant women, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Associated Press Writer Doug Whiteman contributed to this report.

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