By Ken Ritter, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada judge denied a furlough Thursday for a pregnant state prison inmate who’s serving time for torching her Las Vegas puppy store and wants to be moved to a hospital until her baby is born, probably next month.
Clark County District Court Judge Jim Crockett said after three hours of testimony from 36-year-old Gloria Eun Hye Lee and a Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Facility prison doctor that he believes everyone involved wants the baby boy and Lee to be healthy.
The judge said Lee should remain in prison, and he’ll review the case again Aug. 18.
“There’s no indication that the baby is anything but healthy,” the judge said as he told Nevada Department of Corrections lawyers and officers to set aside their opinions about Lee, her crime and whether she has exaggerated her complaints of inadequate treatment.
“When you look at her, see the baby inside of her,” Crockett said. “He is your charge. He is innocent of any wrongdoing. And he deserves to have every chance and every opportunity to make full term and be a healthy and screaming baby.”
Lee’s lawyers, Colleen McCarty and Michael Cristalli, pointed to a sworn document from Lee’s doctor, Paul Wilkes, saying Lee is at high risk of complications after six previous miscarriages over the years, and that she’s not getting a drug she needs to treat severe late-term nausea and vomiting.
Lee testified she was hospitalized this week and treated for dehydration after complaining for more than two days that she couldn’t keep anything in her stomach.
Wilkes didn’t testify. But he wrote that “a repeat of this circumstance would in my opinion, to a reasonable degree of certainty, place the life of Ms. Lee’s unborn child at unnecessary risk.”
Lawyers for the prison, Jared Frost and Caroline Bateman, and prison doctor Arthur Tayengco denied McCarty’s assertions that the prison is providing substandard medical care for her high-risk pregnancy.
“Ms. Lee is right now experiencing the most successful pregnancy of her life, in the care of the Nevada Department of Corrections,” Frost said.
Lee drew harsh words at sentencing in February from a judge who gave her the maximum five to 14 years in state prison and said he thought she became pregnant in the weeks after pleading guilty last October to arson, insurance fraud and attempted animal cruelty in a manipulative effort to get him to be lenient.
Lee has identified the child’s father as her husband, from whom she was estranged at the time of the January 2014 fire at the Prince and Princess pet shop in southwest Las Vegas. She once tried to blame him for her crime.
Store security video showed Lee removing files in an office while co-defendant Kirk Bills poured liquid on the floor around locked kennel cages and ignited it.
Ceiling fire sprinklers quickly doused flames, and none of the 27 dogs was fatally injured before firefighters arrived.
Bills pleaded guilty to arson and attempted animal cruelty. He is serving four to 10 years in prison.
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