PENN YAN — As Tuesday’s crowd at the Yates County Courthouse illustrated, a midwife who faces dozens of felony charges — including criminally negligent homicide — still has plenty of support from the Mennonite community.
Elizabeth Catlin, 54, of Potter, pleaded not guilty to all the charges during her arraignment in county court. The courtroom was nearly full, with an estimated 75-100 people — most of them Mennonites — watching the proceedings.
Before she went into court, Catlin spent about 20 minutes hugging and shaking hands with supporters outside the courtroom. She was trailed by a film crew that has monitored previous court appearances.
After everyone went into the courtroom and sat down — and before Judge Jason Cook took the bench — many people sang a verse of “Amazing Grace.”
Catlin faces 95 felony counts for allegedly practicing as a midwife for years without a state license. Catlin, who was indicted by a county grand jury last month, faces one count of unauthorized practice of the profession of midwifery.
The one homicide count alleges she caused the death of a baby in October 2018. Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella has declined to elaborate on that charge, other than to say it was levied based on the evidence presented to the grand jury.
Most of the charges are for criminal possession of a forged instrument, identity theft and falsifying business records. State police said Catlin used the name, address and phone number of a Penn Yan-area medical office — as well as a staff member’s name — to set up a fraudulent account with a Rochester medical lab. Police said Catlin, using forged requisition forms, would get blood samples from her clients and send them to the lab to be screened or tested.
Catlin originally was arrested in November 2018. At that time, police said Catlin was working as a midwife for many years but did not have state certification to do so. The following month, Catlin was arrested again after police said she continued to run an illegal midwife practice in the town of Milo.
During her first appearance in Penn Yan Village Court, in December 2018, a large number of people showed to support her. There were numerous letters of support for Catlin around that time, with some saying she has professional midwife certification recognized by dozens of other states, but not New York.
Catlin’s attorney, David Morabito, entered a not-guilty plea on Catlin’s behalf. Cook scheduled a conference with him and the attorneys next month, and scheduled motion arguments for April 14.
Catlin was free on $15,000 bail since her arrests in late 2018, but Cook ordered the bail to be exonerated and Catlin released on her own recognizance. None of the charges Catlin faces qualify for bail under the state’s reforms.