Ohio ex-doctor seeks leniency in pregnant mom's heroin death, says overdose was accidental

Attorneys for a former Ohio doctor who pleaded guilty to killing a pregnant mother acknowledged in a court filing Thursday that he recorded himself having sex with the incapacitated woman but say she caused her own accidental overdose.

The defense also acknowledged that Ali Salim moved the woman's body but argued he should be granted leniency at sentencing Friday, though it didn't recommend a sentence.

Attorneys said Salim met 23-year-old Deanna Ballman intending only to have sex in exchange for payment, not to hurt her or her unborn child, and accepts responsibility for their deaths and trying to cover up what happened. The defense said the court also should consider Salim's previous background as a doctor in good standing with no criminal history.

Salim, 44, of New Albany, pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. On a rape charge, he entered a type of guilty plea under which he maintains innocence but acknowledges prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.

The contrast between those crimes and Salim's background are "illustrative of the accidental nature of the events," the defense said in the filing.

Prosecutors, who are pushing for the maximum sentence of 37 years, allege Salim administered a fatal dose of heroin to Ballman in July 2012. They say Ballman, who had two children, wasn't a drug user but had turned to prostitution to make ends meet and died after answering a Craigslist ad offering $200.

Her body was found in the back seat of her car on a rural road a few miles from Salim's Columbus-area home the day after she met him. She was nine months pregnant; the child she planned to name Mabel also died.

In Thursday's filing, the defense said Ballman asked Salim to get heroin for her, then injected herself with it and died during the night. After realizing she had died, Salim tried to delete photos and video of the sex acts, clean his home, move Ballman's body and lie about what happened, the attorneys said.

Prosecutors have said Salim, an emergency room physician, neglected his duty to help Ballman.

They said in court documents that Salim used Craigslist extensively to meet sexual partners, with many references in his ads to exchanging drugs for sex, including heroin. Many of the women were young, drug-addicted prostitutes, with several alleging they were drugged against their will and others saying they were sexually assaulted, the prosecution's filing said.

Salim's attorneys denied those allegations in their filing. They also submitted copies of Craigslist postings and emails that they say show Ballman solicited sex online, responded to at least one other person soliciting prostitution and posted her own ads to offer sex for compensation.

Defense attorneys also gave the court letters from relatives and others defending Salim's character, including one from a former girlfriend who praised Salim for acting as a father figure to her daughter.