Ex-whiz kid gets 6 months after SAT fraud

October 24, 1992|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

ROCKVILLE — In yesterday's editions of The Sun, an article about th sentencing of Lawrence Adler on perjury charges incorrectly reported the date his probationary period would begin. He was ordered to begin three years' probation Friday and a six-month jail term Dec. 26.

The Sun regrets the error.

ROCKVILLE -- The Potomac teen-ager who paid a friend to take his Scholastic Aptitude Test last year and then lied about it in court is going to jail the day after Christmas.

Lawrence Adler, 19, was sentenced yesterday in Montgomery County Circuit Court to six months for committing perjury during a civil suit that grew out of his SAT scam.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"You have been conning people all your life and the con comes to an end here today," Judge Paul Weinstein said at the end of an emotional, two-hour sentencing hearing. "This system of justice is based on truth and honesty, and you have not learned that."

Judge Weinstein initially sentenced Adler to 18 months for perjury and 18 months for subornation of perjury -- getting someone else to lie for him -- but suspended 12 months of each sentence. The two six-month terms are to be served concurrently.

Adler will be put on three years' probation after his release from the Montgomery County jail. The judge also ordered Adler to perform 100 hours of community service and seek psychiatric counseling.

Adler's attorney, John Bell, said he would not appeal the sentence but would try to get it reduced. Mr. Bell also said he will see if Adler can be sent to a pre-release center.

Throughout the hearing, Adler was characterized as an unfortunate victim and a cunning manipulator.

Reisterstown psychologist Harry Olson, who evaluated Adler for the defense, said the young man was traumatized by his father's suicide, sexually abused by two other adults and was robbed and threatened by his business manager. Dr. Olson said Adler was scared about taking the SAT while driven to succeed.

Matthew Campbell, deputy state's attorney for Montgomery County, said Adler had a "tenacious desire to persevere in getting what he wants," even to the point of persuading others that he had actually taken the test.

Adler, who once traveled by limousine, gained fame in the 1980s as a whiz-kid entrepreneur who turned a lawn-mowing service into a full-time rent-a-kid business. Yesterday, his voice shaking, he begged Judge Weinstein not to send him to jail.

"I will never do anything else wrong. I really want to go on with my education. . . . All I want from you is, please, mercy. I'd be destroyed in jail," he said, weeping.

A freshman at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., Adler is studying business and marketing and working three jobs. At Mr. Bell's request, he will not report to jail until he completes the semester.

The SAT scam began last fall when a high school friend and student at the University of Virginia took the college entrance exam for Adler. The friend scored 1410 out of a possible 1600 points.

The Educational Testing Services, which administers the SAT, received a tip that Adler had not taken the test. ETS told Adler it was questioning his scores and was withholding his scores while it investigated.

Adler sued to force ETS to release the scores. During that case, Adler lied about his involvement with the test. He also got a friend, David Scrulevich of Rockville, to testify for him. Adler lost the case, also in Montgomery County Circuit Court, and later confessed to what had in fact occurred.

He was charged with five counts of perjury, subornation of perjury and obstruction of justice. In August, he agreed to a guilty plea. Mr. Scrulevich, now a student at a North Carolina community college, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Judge Weinstein said he was sending Adler to jail because he had lied under oath "and violated the very basic principle upon which our entire system is built."

Dr. Olson, who said after the hearing that he did not agree with the outcome, conceded that the judge was "caught in a bind. He had to make an example of Larry. But he suspended all but six months, so in his way he was being merciful."

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