Man who raped 10-year-old pleads guilty, gets prison sentence

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Not every rape case generates national attention, but The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday on the resolution of a case that shocked millions of people across the country.

A little more than a year after a 10-year-old Columbus girl made national news because she had to travel from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion, the man who was charged with raping her has admitted to his crime and will spend at least 25 years in prison. Gerson Fuentes, 28, a Guatemalan national who has a Columbus address, pleaded guilty to both counts of rape Wednesday afternoon in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Revisiting our earlier coverage, it was exactly one year ago this week when The Indianapolis Star first reported on a gut-wrenching medical case: Three days after Republican-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Indiana received a call from a colleague in Ohio, where an abortion ban had just kicked in.

The child abuse physician in Ohio had a 10-year-old patient in the office who was six weeks and three days pregnant, and the doctor hoped the girl could circumvent the abortion ban in the Buckeye State and have the pregnancy terminated in neighboring Indiana, before its Republican policymakers imposed an abortion ban of their own.

Dr. Caitlin Bernard agreed to take on the young patient, who traveled to Indiana for the medical care she could not legally receive in her home state of Ohio.

For her efforts, Bernard was targeted by Todd Rokita, her own home state’s GOP attorney general, and the doctor was ultimately fined $3,000 for allegedly violating her unnamed patient’s privacy.

But before the public moves on from the story, I’m reminded of an angle to this nightmare that added insult to injury.

After the public first learned of the crime, and Democratic officials — including at the White House — pointed to the attack on this girl as evidence of the importance of reproductive rights, a few too many voices on the right publicly questioned whether the rape had actually occurred.

The week after the Indianapolis Star’s report first ran, for example, Dave Yost, Ohio’s Republican attorney general, appeared on Fox News and cast doubt on the story. The claims were likely “fabricated,” Yost said before condemning the newspaper for publishing its report.

The Ohioan, alas, had plenty of company. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said the story was probably “fake.” The Republican governor went on to call it “literal fake news.” In a since-deleted tweet, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a year before he became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, characterized the allegations as a “lie.”

Conservative media outlets like Fox News, The Washington Times, and the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal followed suit, telling conservatives the story “was not true,” “a huge lie,” and a “fanciful tale.”

As the rapist heads to prison, I wonder whether we’ll be hearing from any of the voices on the right who seemed awfully certain this crime hadn’t occurred.

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”

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