Carroll man pleads guilty to role in murder plot

Defense claims Pearl 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 also is undergoing psychiatric evaluations to determine whether he would be held criminally responsible.

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 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 and other co-defendants in the case while promoting a business venture involving "Strongput," a no-grip exercise weight.

Caruthers, a high school drop-out who held a variety of low-paying jobs but told others that he led a secret life as a test pilot, spy, astronaut and government assassin, has been described as the leader of an organization called BDX - Beta Dominion Xenophilia. He has denied being a cult leader and has said that some descriptions of his group were a product of science-fiction writing exercises. Pearl entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant concedes that prosecutors have sufficient evidence for a conviction but does not admit guilt. He is the second of the five people charged in the case to plead guilty to conspiracy in a failed scheme to kill E. David Gable, a Baltimore County businessman.

Caruthers' wife, Dashielle Lashra, who also had been jailed since October 2001, was sentenced last month to time served and was placed on five years' probation.

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, the prosecutor.

"They had brought Gable in originally to control their investments," Gilmore said in court yesterday. "Then, [a Securities and Exchange Commission] investigation meant their stocks were frozen. Gable was scheduled to testify in that investigation and they wanted him killed before that court date."

Pearl was present at meetings at which a plan to hire a hit man was discussed, Gilmore said. The alleged plot was foiled when the would-be hit man told Gable's lawyer of the plan.

Bernstein called Gilmore's account "the most sanitized version and the most favorable to the state."

"We would present other evidence, if there was a jury trial," Bernstein said.

Also charged in the alleged scheme are Dulsa Naedek, a woman who lived at the Caruthers home outside Westminster, and Amy C. Dardick, who was released on $10,000 bail soon after the arrest and sent for deprogramming treatment with the expectation that she would testify for the prosecution if Caruthers' case goes to trial.

Caruthers and Naedek are to be tried separately this spring.

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