Psychologist admits she aided boyfriend and his cellmate in Jessup prison escape

Plea allows her to skip trial, reduces maximum possible term to 5 years

January 12, 2000|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A former prison psychologist admitted yesterday that she helped her inmate paramour and another convict escape from the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup -- avoiding a trial that threatened more public detail of their relationship and her life.

Elizabeth L. Feil, 42, pleaded guilty in Anne Arundel County Circuit to one count of serving as an accessory after the May 18 prison break.

The incident prompted the transfer of the warden, disciplinary action or transfers of nine guards and a review of prison security.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped a second accessory charge and two counts of harboring a fugitive.

Feil picked up the inmates -- convicted robber Byron Smoot, an armed robber serving 29 years and with whom she had exchanged more than 100 love letters, and his killer-cellmate, Gregory Lawrence -- after the pair climbed over a fence to flee the medium-security prison, police said. Their freedom lasted less than 48 hours.

The former Annapolis residentstood quietly during the brief hearing and declined to speak afterward.

The plea entered before Judge Clayton Greene Jr. cuts the maximum sentence Feil could receive at sentencing, set for March 15, from 12 years to five.

Feil's lawyer, Isaiah Dixon III, said he will ask Greene to grant her probation rather than impose a prison sentence.

"I cannot imagine jail serving any useful purpose at this point," he told reporters outside the courthouse. "She has been through a lot."

But Assistant State's Attorney William D. Roessler said Feil should be jailed for her breach of public trust and exposing the public to two violent felons.

"We are talking about aiding someone who had a prior record for dangerous felonies," he said outside the court, referring to Smoot.

Feil met Smoot in 1997 when she worked at Patuxent Institution -- where he was jailed at the time, and from which she was fired because of a relationship with another prisoner, authorities have said.

The psychologist told the judge she was under psychiatric care for depression, and her attorney would not elaborate on whether that was because of her arrest, to issues that led her into a relationship with Smoot or to some other problem.

Feil and Smoot corresponded. She visited him frequently -- 58 times in seven months -- the last time, two days before he and Lawrence escaped.

After they fled, Smoot paged Feil and she drove to Mel's Liquors on Route 175, less than a mile from the prison, to pick up the men -- both bloodied from scaling a razor-wire fence.

She brought them to the Town House Motel on Reisterstown Road in Baltimore, bandaged their wounds and spent the night with Smoot there. Lawrence's girlfriend is alleged to have picked him up at the motel.

After tracing telephone calls and repeatedly questioning Feil, state police found and arrested both fugitives.

Among the spectators in court yesterday was Glenn Bosshard, who sat with his 15-year-old daughter as Feil entered her plea and was released pending sentencing. Though they had no marriage license, Feil and Bosshard had been wed by a minister and lived together for 11 years.

They talked briefly -- the situation between them appearing less volatile than in the days immediately after her arrest, when he openly spoke of his anger and gave photographs of Feil, letters from Smoot to her and other details to the media. There was also his highly publicized car chase after Feil in Annapolis, and a lawsuit she filed against Bosshard.

"I'm very sad because it is a very sad situation," Bosshard said after the court session.

Feil is the third of the four people charged in the case to plead guilty.

Smoot, 38, pleaded guilty to escape and last month, and had eight years added to the 29 he was serving for robberies in the Glen Burnie area.

Lawrence, 39, pleaded guilty to escape last month and had six years added to his life sentence for murder.

Lawrence's girlfriend, Geneva Shadeed, 36, of Baltimore, is scheduled for trial next week in Circuit Court on charges of being an accessory after the fact and harboring a fugitive.

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