Last year, the story of a 10-year-old girl in Ohio who had traveled to Indiana for an abortion became a flashpoint in the nationwide abortion debate. On Wednesday, the Ohio man who had been charged with 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 the plea agreement to two counts of rape, which gives him the possibility of parole after 25 years, according to livestream broadcasts from local media inside the courtroom.
Mr. Fuentes, who was arrested in July of last year, had earlier pleaded not guilty to two charges of felony rape of the girl, who was 9 at the time, court and police records show. The trial had been scheduled to start on Jan. 9, but it was delayed because of plea negotiations, investigations and scheduling, a prosecutor, Dan Meyer, said that month.
Zachary Olah, Mr. Fuentes’s lawyer, was not immediately available for comment.
A Columbus Police Department incident report said that Mr. Fuentes was arrested after the girl went to a doctor, who determined she was pregnant. Mr. Fuentes was charged with the rape of a child under 13 years old, a felony that can carry a life sentence. He was held on $2 million bond.
G. Gary Tyack, the prosecuting attorney for Franklin County, announced in July 2022 that a grand jury had returned an indictment charging Mr. Fuentes with two counts of rape. The indictment said that the assaults took place between Jan. 1 and on or about May 12 of last year.
The girl’s story was first reported by The Indianapolis Star. A video of the court hearing posted by the conservative news site Townhall last year showed the testimony of Detective Jeffrey Huhn of the Columbus police, who said the girl’s mother took her to Indiana for the abortion at the end of June last year when she was just past six weeks pregnant.
He said Mr. Fuentes had confessed to raping the girl twice.
The Columbus Dispatch earlier reported on the arrest and the connection to the girl, who was 10 when she traveled across state lines to receive the 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 abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, with no exception for rape or incest. That law prevented the girl from receiving an abortion in her home state, where sex with a person under the age of 13 is a first-degree felony.
The Ohio case fueled heated public and political disputes over whether the story was true, President Biden and supporters of abortion rights pointed to the girl’s experience as the tragic consequence of abortion bans. Conservatives questioned whether the child even existed, and the Ohio attorney general, David Yost, initially said he found no evidence of such a victim.
After the arrest, Mr. Yost issued a statement saying his “heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child.”