A wealthy Maryland real estate developer, accused of plotting to murder his wife, has received a two-year deferred judgment and sentence after entering a guilty plea to a lesser charge in Denver District Court.

Arthur C. Hyde, 68, of Bethesda, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of criminal solicitation to commit first degree assault, an offense which in Colorado carries a maximum prison sentence of ten years.

Under a plea-bargaining agreement with the Denver district attorney's office, however, Hyde's sentence was deferred by the judge, and the case will be dismissed if he stays out of trouble for two years.

Hyde, whose wealth is estimated at close to $8 million, is owner of a Rockville real estate firm, and a private airport in Clinton. According to his lawyer, the prominent businessman is a member of the Washington Board of Trade, the Congressional Country Club, and other civic organizations.

Under the agreement with prosecutors, Hyde will return to Maryland for psychiatric treatment. He could have received up to 50 years in prison on the original charge, prosecution said.

Hyde was indicted by a Denver Grand Jury in November 1978 on a charge of murder. He was accused of offering a private detective $20,000 to arrange for the murder of his wife, Mary Anne, 58, who lived in Aspen. About $5,000 was actually paid to the detective, prosecutors alleged.

Hyde, who is in ill health, was undergoing a divorce at the time. Sources said he was afraid of losing much of his estate to his wife.

Informed sources said that prosecutors arranged for the lenient disposition of the case because they felt it unlikely Hyde would even be sent to jail due to his deteriorating health and advanced age.

Prosecutors also felt that the detective whom Hyde allegedly solicited for the murder plot was of questionable character and winning a conviction might be difficult.

Hyde was charged in the case after the detective notified police of his discussions with Hyde and was outfitted with a microphone to tape the conversations, prosecutors said.

Hyde's attorneys, Dave Stark, of Denver, said that Hyde's defense was that he had been solicited by the detective to commit murder, and Hyde said don't do it."

Stark said that Hyde had obtained a letter of support in the case from Sen. Jennings Randolph (D-W.Va.) and several other well-known figures. A spokesman for Randolph confirmed yesterday that Hyde was a longtime friend of the senator's.

Neither Hyde nor his wife -- who had been married for nearly 40 years -- could be reached for comment yesterday. A business associate said Hyde had been deeply affected by the case, and was vacationing in Hawaii.

"He honestly never intended this to go as far as it did," another friend said.