Feil gets 6 months for aiding prison break

Ex-therapist also given 5 years of probation

March 16, 2000|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Professing shame and crying, former prison psychologist Elizabeth L. Feil was sentenced yesterday to six months in jail for helping her inmate paramour and another convict escape from a Jessup prison.

"I lost my family, my home, my career, my self-esteem," Feil told Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Clayton Greene Jr. Later, she said, "I will never be at peace with myself for what I did."

Greene sentenced her to two years in jail, with all but six months suspended, and added five years of supervised probation. The maximum sentence permitted was five years in prison.

He rejected the defense's chief argument, that Feil suffered from low self-esteem stemming from growing up with an abusive, alcoholic and cold father. Her childhood created emotional scars that left her vulnerable to manipulation by prisoners, the defense argued.

"You do not appear to me to be a woman who suffers from low self-esteem," Greene told Feil. "I see someone who focused at the time of this crime on self-gratification."

Feil met convicted armed robber Byron Smoot in 1997, when she worked at Patuxent Institution and he was incarcerated there.

The 43-year-old former Annapolis resident pleaded guilty in January to one count of accessory after the fact to the May 18 escape by Smoot and his cellmate, convicted killer Gregory Lawrence. She picked them up after they scaled a razor-wire fence at the medium-security Maryland Correctional Institution, drove them to a Baltimore motel and took care of their wounds. After telephone calls were traced and Feil repeatedly questioned, the men's freedom lasted less than 48 hours.

Feil cried during yesterday's hearing, as her family and friends asked the judge to limit her punishment to probation, claiming she had suffered enough personally and professionally.

Deputy state's attorney William D. Roessler, whose argument for jail time targeted Feil's drift from a professional relationship with Smoot to a personal one that betrayed public trust and endangered the public, was pleased with the sentence.

"I think incarceration was necessary because of the seriousness of what she did and the consequences. This was a choice she made, to break the law. The message is that she made a bad choice and got sentenced like anyone else," he said.

Feil's attorney, Isaiah Dixon III, who sought no jail time or house arrest for his client, thought Greene's sentence reflected the notoriety of the case.

"I think he was under a lot of political pressure to do something," Dixon said.

Dixon said he expects to ask the judge to modify the sentence, perhaps to probation-before-judgment, which could allow her to have her record expunged after finishing probation.

Feil was working toward becoming a licensed psychologist in Maryland when she was charged, and the nature of the crime will bar her from obtaining that license, Dixon said. Most states have similar licensing requirements that would restrict her professionally.

Glenn Bosshard, who lived with Feil for 11 years and wed her in a ceremony without a marriage license, embraced Feil before the sentencing. Bosshard yesterday spoke of his sorrow at the events that shook the couple's life.

"My love and prayers go with her today. I'm very sad," he said.

It was a far cry from the volatile situation in the days after her arrest, when he openly discussed his anger, gave Feil's diary and her love letters from Smoot to news media and engaged in a car chase of her through Annapolis. A civil suit she filed against him was dropped yesterday, his lawyer said. Her lawyer said he will ask prosecutors to drop traffic charges against her related to the chase.

Feil will probably be allowed to keep her job with a Montgomery County telemarketing company while spending nights in the Anne Arundel County jail.

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