Defendant in murder conspiracy is released

Pearl found guilty but not criminally responsible

Carroll County

February 20, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A colleague of reputed cult leader Scott Caruthers was released from jail yesterday with orders that he pursue mental health treatment after being found not criminally responsible for his role in a conspiracy to commit murder.

David S. Pearl, a lawyer who with Caruthers was arrested in 2001 and charged with trying to arrange for the killing of a Baltimore County businessman, was found guilty of the charge but not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder at the time of the offense, according to a judge's written opinion yesterday.

Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway's findings included five pages of conditions, including requirements that Pearl begin counseling this month, take any medications prescribed by his psychiatrist, submit to blood tests, abstain from alcohol and drugs, and stay away from 11 people, including Caruthers, other co-defendants, alleged targets, witnesses and their extended families.

Pearl, 48, did not address the judge during a hearing yesterday, but he signed the agreement - then went to lunch, said defense attorney Gary S. Bernstein.

"I took him out to eat. He was glad to be out of the detention center," Bernstein said. "So he goes home and he goes to therapy, after 16 months and 16 days" of being held in lieu of $1 million bail, said Bernstein.

Held since his arrest

Pearl had been held since his arrest on charges of conspiring to murder E. David Gable, 52, a former business associate. He and Caruthers were charged with soliciting Amir Tabassi, a former bodyguard for Caruthers, to kill Gable.

Caruthers, 57, also has entered an insanity defense and remains in jail awaiting trial, tentatively set for May. He is an author and inventor who has been described as the space-alien leader of a Westminster-based cult that supposedly used cats to communicate with an extraterrestrial mothership.

Pearl, now of Reisterstown, entered a guilty plea last month to one charge of conspiracy to commit murder. He admitted that the state had sufficient evidence to convict him without conceding guilt, while still pursuing the insanity defense and with the understanding that he would not serve any more time behind bars once his case had been adjudicated.

Of the judge's finding, Bernstein said, "It's been the goal since Day One - what I thought should happen."

Separate evaluations

Bernstein said he had Pearl evaluated by a doctor soon after his arrest in October 2001, which might have carried more weight than the findings of state hospital staff who did not see him until late last year.

Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore said her office had agreed that Pearl would serve no more time.

"If he had been found to be criminally responsible, we would not have asked for any additional active incarceration but would have asked for conditions of probation similar to what he's been ordered to do as part of his conditional release - counseling, mental health evaluations, that kind of thing," she said.

The prosecution did not concede the issue of criminal responsibility, Gilmore noted, adding, "I can't discuss the [psychiatric] findings but we usually respect the state findings."

Pearl said he understood and signed a one-page acknowledgment of the conditions of his release, which includes the monitoring of his medical records by the Community Forensic Aftercare Program at the state's Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center.

Pearl has not been in treatment before, Bernstein said, and has some trepidation about it.

George Psoras Jr., who represents Caruthers, said he expected the finding regarding Pearl.

"David Pearl will now go get deprogrammed, whatever that means," he said. "Hats off to Gary: I think he did a good thing."

Open to plea deal

Psoras said he is willing to discuss a plea deal for Caruthers, who also has entered an insanity defense but was found sane by the state's doctors. He said his client is "a dreamer" who is "discouraged at being in jail so long."

Caruthers' wife, Dashielle Lashra, 43, pleaded guilty in December to the charge of conspiracy to murder Gable, and she was sentenced to time served and placed on five years of probation.

Still awaiting trial are Dulsa Naedek, 43, who was arrested at the couple's former home in the 500 block of Scott Drive, Westminster, and Amy C. Dardick, 40, who was sent for deprogramming treatment with the expectation that she will testify for the prosecution.

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