Citing Cathy Evelyn Smith's continuing use of illicit drugs and the need to set an example for society, the prosecution asked Wednesday that the former rock groupie be sentenced to three years in state prison for giving comedian John Belushi a fatal drug overdose in 1982.
"The use of illegal drugs has reached epidemic proportions and society can ill-afford to condone conduct which encourages the use of illicit narcotics," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Elden S. Fox in a sentencing memo filed with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Horowitz.
Comparing Belushi's demise to the recent cocaine-related deaths of basketball star Len Bias and football star Don Rogers, Fox emphasized that a prison sentence for Smith would "put others on notice that the experienced user who employs his or her expertise . . . to assist others in the use and abuse of illicit narcotics is not exempt from prosecution merely because the victim may have initiated contact and willingly participated in the crime."
"In short, defendant was no less culpable than if she held a gun to the victim's temple and at his request pulled the trigger."
Smith, whose sentencing on involuntary manslaughter charges is now set for Sept. 2, was recently found to have 54 apparently fresh puncture wounds indicative of current drug use, Fox reported, citing a county Probation Department report.
The prosecutor said that as recently as June 26 Smith acknowledged injecting heroin. He said she has been enrolled in a substance-abuse counseling or detoxification program at least four times in the last year but to no avail.
Nevertheless, the probation report recommended that Horowitz not impose a prison sentence on Smith. According to Fox's memo, the report cited such mitigating circumstances as Belushi's willing participation, Smith's lack of previous participation in major crimes and the fact that she was a heavy drug user at the time she injected the 33-year-old comic.
The full probation report is unavailable for public scrutiny until after Smith's sentencing. Smith's attorney, Howard L. Weitzman, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. However, he has said previously that Smith should not be jailed.
Smith, a 39-year-old Canadian citizen, entered a plea of no contest June 11 to involuntary manslaughter and three additional counts of furnishing Belushi with controlled substances in the days and hours before his death.
Smith, in an interview with a free-lance writer introduced in court during her preliminary hearing, admitted injecting Belushi more than 20 times with "speedballs"--a mixture of heroin and cocaine--during the final day of his life.
Belushi, who starred on the original "Saturday Night Live" television show and in movies, including "Animal House," was found dead March 5, 1982, in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont hotel in West Hollywood.
Fox, in his memo, wrote that the prosecution has already demonstrated leniency for Smith by recommending a three-year sentence rather than the maximum possible term of eight years and eight months.
In accepting the no-contest plea, prosecutors also agreed to drop a second-degree murder charge and 10 additional drug counts for which Smith could have faced 10 years in prison.
Probation is not suitable, Fox stated, because Smith has shown a "minimal desire and motivation to change" and could flee to Canada to avoid enforcement.
He said Smith still "does not comprehend the nature and gravity of her crimes."