Sanity, deprogramming of defendants scrutinized; Reputed space-alien cult; Defense lawyers disagree on allowing audiotapes
The Baltimore Sun, Oct. 20, 2002
By Sheridan Lyons
One year after reputed cult leader Scott Caruthers’ arrest in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme, the court system is sorting through a tangled case in which one defendant is vowing to turn on the others, two suspects are undergoing psychiatric evaluations and one woman’s “deprogramming” is under scrutiny.
And last week, in the first major hearing in the case, one lawyer argued that hours of audiotapes seized from Caruthers’ Westminster home should be barred from trial — while another defense lawyer relished the idea of playing them for a jury.
Caruthers, an author and inventor who has been described as the space-alien leader of a cult that supposedly used cats to communicate with an extraterrestrial mothership, has filed an insanity plea to murder-conspiracy charges. But he has been found sane by doctors for the prosecution, said his attorney, George Psoras Jr., who is planning to commission his own tests.
Meanwhile, a private psychiatrist has determined that one of Caruthers’ four co-defendants, David S. Pearl, should not be held responsible for any crimes because of his mental state, according to Pearl’s attorney.
Although further testing is planned for Caruthers and Pearl, lawyers in the case are raising questions about what another co-defendant might say at the trial, which is scheduled for May. Amy C. Dardick, 40, was sent for deprogramming and is expected to testify for the prosecution — and defense lawyers are demanding to know if her thoughts might have been influenced by hypnosis.
If all that’s not enough, Caruthers and three of the co-defendants asked in the hearing last week that they be tried separately. Prosecutors opposed such a plan as too unwieldy.
The cases, Psoras said, “are very complicated. Efficiency is great, but justice and fairness are also important.”
Caruthers, 57, is accused of plotting to have former business associate David Gable killed. Similar charges were lodged against Caruthers’ wife, Dashielle Lashra, 43; Dulsa Naedek, 43, who lived at the couple’s home in the 500 block of Scott Drive; and Pearl, a 48-year-old lawyer. The four are charged with conspiracy and solicitation of murder, and they have been held at the Carroll County Detention Center since their arrests last October.
They are members of an organization called Beta Dominion Xenophilia, or BDX, according to journal writings, former associates and law enforcement authorities. The members purportedly believed that Caruthers is a space alien working for the government.
Last month, Caruthers was charged with conspiring to murder two other people: the former husbands of Naedek and Dardick. Dardick, who is charged with conspiring to kill her ex-husband, is free on $10,000 bail while awaiting trial.
Caruthers has denied being a cult leader and has said that some descriptions of the group were a product of science fiction writing exercises. His attorney said Caruthers, who is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, is not guilty of the charges against him.
“Scott is looking forward to vindicating himself and exonerating himself from these outrageous charges,” Psoras said.
Dardick’s attorney, Kathi Hill, would not say whether hypnosis was used in the deprogramming of her client. Psoras and Gary S. Bernstein, Pearl’s attorney, are prepared to argue that the law forbids testimony that has been influenced by hypnosis.
“How can it be reliable?” Psoras said.
Bernstein added, “We need to know how she was deprogrammed.”
But the two lawyers differ over the issue of the 150 hours of audiotapes seized from Caruthers’ home. A warrant authorized police to seize computers, journals and other items — but did not specifically list audio recordings. Court records show that a gun, photographs and writings were seized, along with audiotapes.
Psoras says the tapes should not be used as evidence because they were illegally obtained under the search warrant. But Bernstein is eager for the tapes to be heard because, he said, they capture Caruthers saying that Pearl should be killed for being disloyal.
“I love these tapes,” Bernstein said. He said they apparently were not clandestine recordings, but were dictated by Caruthers.
Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway said he would review written legal arguments from the defense and the state before ruling on the defense motions.