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Utah doctor Nicola Riley is "elated" that she no longer faces murder charges for an abortion she performed in Maryland, but her lawyers say her reputation and livelihood have been "permanently and wrongly damaged" by the prosecutor's "grievous mistake" in charging her.

"The State's Attorney's decision to drop the charges confirms that he knew he could not prevail," said Riley's Baltimore attorneys, Stuart O. Simms and Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, in a statement. "Our client has been and continues to be appalled that the state ever brought this caseā€¦ [S]he committed no crime."

The case centered on an August 2010 abortion started in New Jersey by physician Steven Chase and finished by Riley in a clinic in Elkton, Maryland. The 18-year-old patient was seriously injured during the surgery by Riley — which triggered the police investigation that led to the murder charges.

In his Tuesday news release announcing the dismissal of the charges, Cecil County State's Attorney Ellis Rollins III cited a lack of jurisdiction over the two-state procedure. The charges against Brigham, which included murder counts related to four other abortions, were also dropped.

Rollins' statement should have acknowledged that providing the abortion was not criminal, Riley's attorneys said, and instead showed "breathtaking ignorance of the law."

Their two-page statement said, "In Maryland, a doctor cannot lawfully be prosecuted for murder for performing an abortion."

Riley had been charged under a 2005 fetal homicide statute that allows murder charges for killing a "viable fetus." The teenager was 21.5 weeks pregnant.

But the law was intended to apply to domestic violence that injures pregnant women. The law, which says it wasn't intended to be used in cases related to abortion, had never been used against abortion doctors.

Riley is elated, said her Utah attorney, Edwin Wall.

"She's been under a tremendous amount of pressure because the charges that were brought were very serious. This should go a long way to restoring her good name in the community," he said.

He said he believes Riley will remain in Utah, where she has two children, and will continue to practice family medicine.

Riley was arrested in December in front of her children in her home and waited in jail for a month before she posted $300,000 in bail, collected from family and friends, her attorneys said in their statement.

As Riley came under scrutiny in Maryland, Utah's Division of Professional Licensing allowed her to continue her family medicine practice in Salt Lake County, but entered into an agreement in which she could no longer perform abortions.

Wall said he does not expect Riley to seek approval to resume performing abortions in Utah, where just a handful of doctors offer the elective service.

A message left at Riley's office in Salt Lake County was not returned.

Rollins said in his release that while Elkton police indicated the teenager's fetus died in Maryland, "expert testimony" conflicted and "created a jurisdictional issue," according to the local newspaper The Cecil Whig. Rollins' office was closed and he couldn't be reached for comment late Tuesday.

"The state is left in a position in which it cannot successfully prosecute these matters at this time," the statement continued.

Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, which had been pressing the government to prosecute, denounced the dropping of the charges in a statement Tuesday. "We call on Mr. Rollins to reinstate the charges for the sake of justice and for the safety of the community," he said.

Riley's attorney had argued the prosecutor was trying to reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. They said Rollins' promise of further investigation continues to endanger that right.

Riley had punctured the teen's uterus in a rare but known risk of abortion, and had also damaged her bowel. Riley later told an investigator it was her first complication in five years of performing abortions.

A hospital physician who repaired the teen's injuries and Elkton police filed complaints against Riley with the Maryland Board of Physicians, which suspended her license. They called her a "threat to her patients' safety."

Riley continued to have supporters in Utah, including patients and friends.

"I'm happy that they've dropped the charges. I hope this is the end of this," said The Rev. France Davis, of Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City. He described Riley as a friend and said "she's holding up pretty good."

He had not spoken to her since the charges were dropped. He had written a letter of support for her while she was still in jail in Maryland, saying he had referred patients to her family practice clinic.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

See the statement

To read the statement from Nicola Riley's attorneys at Brown, Goldstein & Levy in Baltimore, visit

Editor's note

Check out The Salt Lake Tribune's recent two-part profile of Nicola Riley at (part 1) and (part 2) —

See the statement

To read the statement from Nicola Riley's attorneys at Brown, Goldstein & Levy in Baltimore, visit

Editor's note

Check out The Salt Lake Tribune's recent two-part profile of Nicola Riley at (Part 1) and (Part 2)

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