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Smith's Narcotics Use Cited; 3-Year Term in Belushi's Death Asked

August 14, 1986|PAUL FELDMAN | Times Staff Writer

Citing Cathy Evelyn Smith's continued use of narcotics and the need to set an example for society, the prosecution asked Wednesday that the former rock groupie be sentenced to three years in prison for giving a fatal drug overdose to comedian John Belushi.

Smith, whose sentencing on involuntary manslaughter and drug charges is set for Sept. 2, was recently found to have 54 apparently fresh puncture wounds indicative of current drug use, according to a sentencing memorandum filed in court by Deputy Dist. Atty. Elden S. Fox.

Fox, quoting a Probation Department report, said that Smith acknowledged injecting herself with drugs as recently as June 26. He said she has undergone substance-abuse counseling or detoxification at least four times in the last year but without success.

Nevertheless, the Probation Department report recommended that Superior Court Judge David Horowitz not impose a prison sentence on Smith.

According to Fox's memo, the report cited such mitigating circumstances as Belushi's willing participation in drug-taking, Smith's lack of previous convictions for major crimes and the fact that she was a heavy drug user in 1982 when she injected the 33-year-old comic with "speedballs."

Smith's attorney, Howard L. Weitzman, could not be reached for comment Wednesday but he, too, said previously that she should not be jailed.

In his memorandum to the judge, however, the prosecutor likened Belushi's demise to the recent cocaine-related deaths of basketball star Len Bias and football star Don Rogers.

"The use of illegal drugs has reached epidemic proportions and society can ill afford to condone conduct which encourages the use of illicit narcotics," he wrote.

A prison sentence for Smith, he said, 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, 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.

In an interview with a free-lance writer introduced in court during her preliminary hearing, she 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 films, 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 added that Smith still "does not comprehend the nature and gravity of her crimes."

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