The Bethesda lawyer convicted of conspiring with her best friend to kill her estranged husband was sentenced yesterday to 20 years in prison, a penalty that prosecutors said would allow her two young children to grow up in peace.
Elsa D. Newman, 53, was found guilty after a jury trial in October on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. It was the second time she had been convicted in the case, and she received the same sentence both times.
The Maryland Court of Appeals threw out the conviction last year on grounds that the trial court improperly compelled testimony by Stephen Friedman, who at one point served as Newman's divorce attorney. Friedman testified that he had heard Newman say she was planning to kill her husband, Arlen J. Slobodow.
Prosecutors were not allowed to use Friedman's testimony in the second trial. But his legal assistant, Sandra Ashley, told jurors that Newman met her at a Bethesda steakhouse before the attack and described the plot that she and her friend, former State Department employee Margery Lemb Landry, had made.
Slobodow, who limps as a result of his injuries, said in Montgomery County Circuit Court yesterday that having Newman in prison would give their sons, who were ages 5 and 8 at the time of the attack, the "opportunity to get on with lives away from her chaos and abuse."
"Blinded by her greed and need for total control, she abused her children," he said, citing how Newman tried to alienate the boys from him. "The children's interests were not her motives."
Prosecutors had charged that Newman was motivated to conspire to murder Slobodow because she had become desperate after losing custody of their sons. Landry broke into Slobodow's Bethesda home Jan. 7, 2002, and shot him in the leg. During a violent struggle, Slobodow managed to pull off Landry's ski mask and call police. Landry escaped but was later identified by Slobodow's sons as the attacker, whom they had called "Auntie Margery."
Landry pleaded guilty in September 2002 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Newman's second trial was moved to Frederick County at the defense's request, on grounds that the case had received too much publicity in Montgomery.
Yesterday, Newman apologized for Landry's actions and said that if she had known about her friend's plans, she would have gone to police. She expressed bitterness, however, toward Slobodow. Newman described herself as an "honest mother" and said she regrets that her children are being cared for by their father.
During the custody dispute and divorce, she accused Slobodow of sexually abusing the boys. In separate investigations, police from the District and Montgomery and the FBI said they did not find evidence to substantiate her claims. Prosecutors said Newman and Landry wanted to kill Slobodow, plant child pornography in his home and kidnap the children.
In their presentation yesterday, prosecutors played for the first time a video of the two sons being interviewed by police about the shooting. The children did not testify.
In the video, the younger boy said he had been asleep in his father's bed before the break-in. The older boy said he was awakened by the commotion, ran into the room and saw his father and "Auntie Margery" in a struggle.
The boy said his father yelled at him to get the phone but Landry told him to "go back to sleep; go to your room." When he reached a phone and dialed for help, he said, Landry fled.
The boy said he was still scared of another attack even though Landry had been arrested. "I want to wake up and this be only a dream," he said.