SOUTH BEND, Indiana — A judge sentenced a northern Indiana woman to 20 years in prison Monday after saying she had abused her position of trust when she gave birth prematurely, threw the baby in the trash and then lied to hospital personnel about giving birth.
"The crux of this case lies in the choices you made after you delivered that baby and you realized the outcome was different than you hoped it would be or expected it would be," St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley said.
Prosecutors argued that 33-year-old Purvi Patel of Granger, a suburb of South Bend, took drugs from China to end the pregnancy, saying she found that more convenient than having a medical abortion. Defense attorney Jeff Sanford said prosecutors never proved she took any drug to end the pregnancy and said his client has been vilified.
"I don't think Miss Patel is the monster she's portrayed to be," Sanford said.
Patel was found guilty in February of neglect of a baby whose body was found on July 14, 2013, in a trash bin behind her family's restaurant in Mishawaka and of feticide, which in Indiana is defined as a person who knowingly or intentionally terminates a pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mark Roule asked Hurley to sentence Patel to 30 years on the neglect charge and 10 years on the feticide, saying she failed to seek medical help when the baby was born alive.
"The mother did nothing but leave him on the floor to die and threw him in the trash," she said.
Patel declined to speak when given the opportunity by Hurley. Sanford asked Hurley to depend on a letter Patel had written showing her remorse.
Hurley sentenced her to 30 years on the neglect charge, suspending the final 10 years, and ordered her to serve a concurrent six-year sentence on the feticide conviction. She also was ordered to serve five years' probation.
Hurley said she didn't find any aggravating factor in the feticide and said Patel's lack of a criminal background was a mitigating factor. But she said was troubled by Patel's decisions and said an aggravating factor was Patel's "treatment of the child literally as a piece of trash."
"You, Miss Patel, are an educated woman of considerable means. If you wished to terminate your pregnancy safely and legally, you could have done so," Hurley said. "You planned a course of action and took matters into your own hands and chose not to go to a doctor."
Patel nodded her head yes when Hurley asked her if she plans to appeal her conviction.
Patel entered the courthouse wearing a scarf around her face as she tried to avoid television cameras. After the verdict was handed down, she hugged her parents, who were crying, and left the courtroom handcuffed.
Sanford declined comment on the sentence.