Carroll lawyer pleads guilty in alleged cult murder plot

Defense claims client not criminally responsible

January 07, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A colleague of reputed cult leader Scott Caruthers entered a guilty plea yesterday to a charge of conspiring to murder one of the group's business associates.

David S. Pearl, 48, who has been jailed since his arrest in October 2001, will continue to pursue a plea that he is not criminally responsible, according to his attorney.

Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway said yesterday that he would not sentence Pearl until receiving a psychiatric report from Springfield Hospital Center, where staff doctors examined Pearl a few weeks ago.

Caruthers, an author and inventor who has been described as the space-alien leader of a Westminster-based cult, is awaiting trial on similar charges and is undergoing psychiatric evaluations to determine whether he would be held criminally responsible. He has denied being a cult leader.

A doctor retained by the defense has determined that Pearl should not be held criminally responsible, Pearl's lawyer, Gary S. Bernstein, said.

"Once the judge has the psychiatric report, I expect my client will be placed under the care of the state for appropriate treatment," said Bernstein. "There is no reason that this [should] be inpatient treatment. No one thinks of him as a danger to himself or to others."

Prosecutors are not likely to seek additional prison time for Pearl, who remains at the Carroll County Detention Center in lieu of $1 million bail.

"At this point, we are not recommending more active incarceration," Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore said.

Pearl, a lawyer, became an officer for a company controlled by Caruthers and moved from Owings Mills to Westminster, where Caruthers lived. Caruthers met Pearl while promoting a business venture involving a no-grip exercise weight.

Pearl entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant concedes that prosecutors have sufficient evidence for a conviction but does not admit guilt, to conspiracy in a failed scheme to kill E. David Gable, a Baltimore County businessman.

The suspects believed that Gable had stolen money from a company Caruthers founded and they wanted to prevent him from testifying as part of a securities investigation, said Gilmore. She said Pearl was present at meetings at which a plan to hire a hit man was discussed. The alleged plot was foiled when the would-be hit man told Gable's lawyer of the plan.

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