Lawyer pleads guilty to attempted murder

October 21, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore lawyer Susan Fila pleaded guilty yesterday to theft and attempted murder in a botched plan to hide her drug addiction-driven embezzlement by killing her law partner in a staged carjacking.

The hearing yielded new details about the April attack -- primarily from a confession by the woman who supplied Fila with heroin and stabbed lawyer Charles Lamasa at her behest.

Fila drove wildly through Baltimore's streets hoping her partner would bleed to death, according to a transcript of Tamme L. Newton's statement to police. And after the assailant took over at the wheel -- while the car sped north on the Jones Falls Expressway -- and dropped Mr. Lamasa off at a hospital, she refused Fila's demands that she run him over.

Fila wanted Mr. Lamasa killed the night of April 14 because she expected her embezzlement from the firm to be discovered by a bank the next morning, Newton also said.

"She said she had to get rid of Chuck before 9 o'clock the next morning and she needed some help," Newton said, according to a transcript of her taped statement to detectives.

In a brief statement to police last April, Fila said: "It was supposed to be like a carjacking, you know."

Her lawyer, Gregg L. Bernstein, said after yesterday's hearing, "Ms. Fila disagrees with a number of the factual statements that were made in court today." Still, he said, she admits her involvement and wants to have the matter resolved.

Prosecutors will ask that Fila, 42, be sentenced to 20 years in prison, and that Newton receive 15 years. Fila pleaded guilty yesterday to attempted first-degree murder, two counts of felony theft and possession of a deadly weapon. Newton, 35, pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder and a weapons charge.

Sentencing was set for Dec. 20.

Under the plea agreement, Fila's lawyers can argue that she be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Fila agreed to pay $53,500 in restitution to Lamasa and a total of $32,000 to three clients of the firm. She also will consent to her disbarment.

By pleading guilty, the women no longer face the possibility of life in prison -- the maximum sentence for attempted first-degree murder.

Fila, who made her mark as a medical malpractice lawyer before succumbing to drugs, at times yesterday looked like someone at home in a courtroom. Wearing a gray suit, she smiled knowingly as the lawyers and judge moved through the formalities of the hearing. To the judge's questions, she gave concise answers in a steady voice. She said she is being treated by a psychologist.

When prosecutors began recounting the events of April 14, however, she leaned forward and covered her face with her hand.

Mr. Lamasa, a former city prosecutor, was stabbed six times by Newton, who ambushed him from the back of Fila's car. Prosecutors suggested that he had been drugged by Fila. And they said that during the attack, she drove past two hospitals despite orders to stop by Mr. Lamasa, who had overpowered Newton and gained control of the "survival-type" knife.

Mr. Lamasa said yesterday that he has no lingering physical wounds from the attack, but that his practice is still recovering from Fila's plundering. He said the state's Attorney Grievance Commission is considering a complaint stemming from his failure to respond to a letter that, he said, Fila concealed from him.

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