Daniel R. Kfoury, insisting that he was conducting "an exorcism . . . basically a religious act" on his roommate when he was killed, pleaded guilty yesterday to involuntary manslaughter.

Arlington Circuit Court Judge Paul F. Sheridan accepted the plea from Kfoury, who initially had been charged with first-degree murder, after finding that Kfoury was "competent" and "not insane."

Sheridan set sentencing for Sept. 5, at which time defense attorneys Frank J. Ceresi and William A. Beeton Jr. are expected to suggest an alternative sentencing arrangement that would have Kfoury admitted for some form of psychiatric treatment.

Kfoury, 30, was arrested Oct. 28 after Robert C. Bloom, 27, was found dead in the basement apartment they shared at 4907 Washington Blvd. in Arlington. The two had met at the Five Fold Ministry, a charismatic church near Seven Corners, a week before Bloom died.

Prosecutor Liam O'Grady said yesterday that Kfoury killed Bloom while conducting a seven-hour "exorcism" on him because he thought Bloom was possessed by "a beehive of demons" because of physical and mental handicaps Bloom suffered in a bicycle accident several years ago.

In response to a long list of questions from Sheridan to determine if he understood the proceedings, Kfoury said he wanted to enter an Alford plea. The plea, named for a U.S. Supreme Court case, is considered the equivalent of a guilty plea in Virginia courts.

O'Grady said the plea allows a defendant to plead guilty if he believes he is innocent, but cannot prove otherwise to a jury because the weight of the evidence is against him. It differs from a "no contest" plea, also the equivalent of a guilty plea, in that a defendant says he is merely not contesting the prosecution's evidence against him.

"In my opinion, I don't feel I'm guilty of what occurred. But due to the weight of evidence against me, I feel I would be convicted if I went to trial," Kfoury told the court in a clear voice.

Sheridan asked if he understood he was entitled to a jury trial by Arlington citizens. "Yes," Kfoury responded. "That's one of the main reasons I'm entering this plea, your honor."

Sheridan then asked if he felt a jury "might not agree with your spiritual beliefs."

"Yes," Kfoury said, standing at the defense table. "Especially in this situation, involving an exorcism, which is basically a religious act."

According to pretrial police testimony and a videotape of Kfoury's statements to police that was played at another hearing, Kfoury said Bloom was possessed by a "legion of demons" headed, military-fashion, by demon colonels and the top-ranking demon, Orion.

Kfoury told police that on the night he performed what was his third "exorcism" of Bloom, he wedged his head between his thighs and beat him with his fists from about 2:30 p.m. until about 10 p.m.

When Bloom didn't move, Kfoury said, he tried to resurrect him in another ceremony. Failing to do so, he called the police.

O'Grady said the first-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum life sentence, was reduced because there was no proof of malice, premeditation or deliberation involved in Bloom's slaying. The maximum penalty for involuntary manslaughter is 10 years in prison, but because Kfoury could be paroled after serving two years, O'Grady said he would seek some form of institutionalization in a mental hospital for Kfoury.

"I'm sure the court will agree with it," O'Grady said. "At this stage, he's still a potential danger to the community . . . . "

Ceresi declined to say why the defense team did not seek to press an insanity defense before a jury. Beeton said it was "the client's decision," but would not elaborate.