Elmont resident Joseph Pressil, 36, wasn’t prepared for fatherhood when he met Anetria Burnett, 34, while working in Texas in 2007. Three months after their six-month-long relationship ended, he was shocked when Burnett told him that she was pregnant with twins — and he was the father.
After four years of monthly $800 child-support payments and regular visits to see his now-4-year-old boys, however, Pressil was even more shocked when he discovered that Burnett had allegedly stored his sperm for in vitro fertilization without his knowledge, resulting in her pregnancy.
According to Pressil’s attorney, Jason Gibson of Houston, Pressil discovered last February that Burnett had been receiving in vitro treatments, when he was accidentally mailed a receipt for sperm cryopreservation. The receipt indicated that she was in the clinic last February, attempting to store semen for a year.
For months, Gibson said, Pressil attempted to contact the fertility clinic for information, first through the company that had sent him the paperwork, Omni-Med Laboratory, which pointed him to the Advanced Fertility Center of Texas. When Advanced Fertility asked him to sign a release form regarding the storage of his sperm, Pressil realized that Burnett had been storing condoms of his semen for fertilization at a later date, Gibson said.
He added that he believes Burnett stored semen and received in vitro treatments several times while she was seeing Pressil.
Pressil recently filed a lawsuit against Advanced Fertility, alleging that the center did not follow the legal procedures for in vitro fertilization, according to the Texas Uniform Parentage Act, which requires in-record consent from both potential parents before in vitro treatments can occur.
According to the lawsuit, a manager of the fertility clinic assumed that Pressil and Burnett were married when she underwent the in vitro fertilization. Gibson said that the center has not provided Pressil with any information, including documentation indicating consent, due to Burnett’s claim of privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“If I were a fertilization center, I would be damn sure that I had both parties in there and had consent,” Gibson said. “They acknowledged that they didn’t have any information on him ... he never stepped foot in there, and as a clinic, they didn’t follow the right procedures. This wouldn’t have happened if they had followed the right procedures.”
Gibson added that the center has not denied that Burnett underwent the fertilization procedures.
He explained that when Pressil first learned of Burnett’s pregnancy, he denied being the father, and Burnett sued for child support. Pressil was ordered by a court to take a paternity test, which proved that he was the father of the twins, so he agreed to pay children support. Burnett also filed unsuccessfully to have Pressil declared her common-law husband — which would have entitled her to half of his property — and she later managed to obtain a driver’s license that listed her last name as Pressil, according to Gibson.
He also said that the couple shared an address in Texas. Pressil, a telecommunications manager who is originally from Elmont, bought a home there in 2007 and allowed Burnett to stay with him before they split later that year. During their domestic partnership, Gibson added, Pressil added Burnett to his insurance because she claimed she needed medical care for fibroids.
Of the fertility clinic, Gibson said, “They said, ‘We assumed that the two were married because she had ID.’”
Supporting evidence that Burnett underwent in vitro fertilization, Gibson said, includes the fact that the pregnancy resulted in twins. According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, the use of assisted reproductive technologies, including in vitro fertilization, boosts the odds of twins or other multiple births.
Gibson said he believes Burnett most likely began the in vitro treatments in order to remain in Pressil’s home and legally gain control of half of his possessions. He added that Burnett is not involved in the lawsuit, in which Pressil alleges negligence, conversion, conspiracy and misappropriation, and is asking for compensation for years of child support and mental anguish.
Burnett’s Texas attorney, Derek Deyon, declined to publicly comment, but, according to Gibson, Deyon is claiming that Burnett and Pressil were planning to have children, and decided to receive in vitro treatments because they were having trouble conceiving. On Nov. 29, Deyon told the Herald that he was instructed by Burnett to "end all communications with the media."
“The biggest thing about this is that someone just doesn’t get pregnant after you stop seeing them,” Gibson said.
Gibson said that Pressil plans to continue a loving relationship with his sons, who are currently living in Houston. “He has his boys, who love him,” he said, “but he has a bad taste in his mouth because of how she went about doing this.”