Herbert Springer, 47, a prosperous D.C. businessman was found guilty of conspiracy to murder his estranged wife yesterday by a D.C. Superior Court jury that deliberately only 37 minutes before returning its verdict.
Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio promptly ordered Springer to St. Elizabeths Hospital for a mental examination "to make sure he's competent to stand sentencing."
Ira Lowe, Springer's attorney, objected and Nunzio replied: "How many times in this trial have you tried to raise an insanity defense without actually raising it."
Springer testifed during the three-day trial that he was "only playing a game" in his contracts last July with a man called "Lank." He said he eventually paid the man [WORD ILLEGIBLE] because he was "petrified" of him and wanted to get rid to him.
"Lank" turned out to be Clayton Lankford Bagley, a D.C. homicide detective who had been ordered by his superiors to pose as a "hitman" who was willing to kill Springer's wife, Sally, for [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
Charged with Springer was Reginald Turner, 35, a Washington real estate man. He was offered immunity by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene M. Propper, but chase to stand trial. The jury also found Turner guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
In addition, Springer and Turner were found guilty in soliciting a felony, to wit [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Both conspiracy to murder and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] for murder carry maximum penalties of 10 years.
Judge Nunzio Turner jailed pending sentencing on March 21. He indicated he would await a psychiatric report from St. Elizabeth before setting another court appearance for Springer.
According to evidence in the trial, the conspiracy [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in this way:
Springer told several friends, including Turner that he would pay $30,000 to get his wife "off my back." Turner then contacted Clarence W. MacFarland, 42, a paroled convict, and told him what Springer had said.
MacFarland told the jury he began to take Springer seriously. To protect himself from a murder charge in the event of Mrs. Springer's death, he said, he went to the FBI on whose payroll he was as an informer.
The FBI contacted D.C. police and Det. Bagley was assigned to the case. Three of Bagley's contact with Springer were recorded and the tapes and transcripts if them were admitted as evidence.
In the first conversation, Batley was heard to say [WORD ILLEGIBLE] my name is Lank. Ah, I understand you need somebody to do some work for you."
Springer: "That's right."
Bagley: "Ah, something about big ten ones. Is that right?"
Springer: "That's about right."
In another conversation, Springer was heard to say, "It's going to be done like an accident."
In a third, Bagley said, "It's taken care of, in the river."
After some more conversation, Springer replied, according to the tapes, "All right, as soon as I hear something I will pay you next week."
In fact, D.C. homicide detective left Mrs. Springer's automobile near the 14th Street Bridge and had harbor police drag the Potomac River in a simulated search for a body.
In his testimony during the trial, Springer said he followed up on the initial contact Bagley made with him "just to find out what's going on, that's all.
He said he knew from watching television that "hit men" never perform their work without a down payment "up front." Since he had no intention of making such a payment, Springer said, he was confident that "Lank" would not harm his wife.
As for the $100 payment, he said he made it because "'Lank' told me if he didn't get some money I'd never walkout of the store again."
The store in question is the F Street NW outlet of Springmaid Fashion Uniforms, Springer's business. Among its customers are several judges who buy their judicial robes from Springmaid.