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Abortion pill suspect would have to hire security to guard himself

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Published:   |   Updated: July 2, 2013 at 08:52 AM

TAMPA - John Andrew Welden, accused of tricking his girlfriend into taking an abortion pill, may be able to get out of jail on bond, but only if his parents pay for an around-the-clock security detail.

U.S. Magistrate Anthony Porcelli recommended Monday that Welden be released on a $250,000 property bond if his father and stepmother hire a private security company to guard their son in their home on Lutz Lake Fern Road.

Porcelli also agreed with prosecutors that the security company must post two licensed agents at the house 24 hours a day until Welden's case is decided. Welden's attorney, Todd Foster, had asked the court to require only one private security agent because of the expense involved.

Prosecutors have filed a motion to revoke Porcelli's original June 24 order to release Welden on bond while awaiting trial. Welden will remain in jail until U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara makes a final decision July 9 on whether to release him.

Welden was arrested in May and charged with murder under a federal law known as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. He also was charged with product tampering.

Prosecutors say Welden tricked his pregnant girlfriend, Remee Jo Lee, into taking an abortion pill called Cytotec, telling her it was an antibiotic.

After taking the pill, Lee lost her baby. Welden's defense team has presented expert testimony that Cytotec could not have killed the child.

On Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow told Porcelli the government did not have any evidence to rebut the defense expert. That means prosecutors are likely to seek a conviction on the lesser charge of attempted murder, which Muldrow said would result in a prison sentence of 17-20 years. Welden had been facing a life sentence if convicted of murder.

In his order last week, Porcelli said the danger of Welden fleeing while out on bond could be minimized if he hired a private security firm to guard him. Since then, Welden's family has had discussions with two firms, Florida Commercial Security Services and Morrison Security.

Representatives from the two companies appeared in court Monday and said Welden would be under visual or camera surveillance at all times, except when he is sleeping or using the bathroom. Porcelli ordered that the bathroom and bedroom be "made inaccessible" by some type of wall or iron bars on the windows.

Porcelli also said Welden could only have personal contact with his immediate family and legal team while out of jail. If other visitors came to the home, Welden would be locked in his bedroom. He would also be denied Internet access and would have to surrender his passport.

Porcelli told Welden he should "think long and hard" about accepting the bail conditions because of the extreme financial sacrifice being made by his father, Stephen Welden, an OB-GYN doctor, and his stepmother, Lenora Welden. Any violations of his probation requirements, Porcelli said, would make Welden's "situation invariably worse.''

"A lot of people obviously care about you," Porcelli said. "Point blank, you put them in a difficult situation."

msalinero@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-8303

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