An Alexandria man convicted of organizing a scheme to abduct and terrorize a prominent city lawyer last year was sentenced yesterday to 54 years in prison.
David M. Kluttz, 38, was one of three men charged with breaking into the home of Kenneth E. Labowitz on Dec. 7, and dragging him away at gunpoint. Authorities said Kluttz had carefully orchestrated the abduction intending to force Labowitz to drop a lawsuit.
Alexandria Circuit Court Judge J. Howe Brown sentenced Kluttz to 84 years in prison, with 30 years suspended.
Prosecutors said yesterday that although the abduction did not result in Labowitz's death, Kluttz had approached another prisoner at the Alexandria jail about killing the lawyer. The other inmate testified yesterday that Kluttz had offered him $1,500.
"He said he wished he had killed Mr. Labowitz," testified Elmer King Jr., who said the murder-for-hire scheme called for him to drive a car into Labowitz. "He said I was to make it look like an accident."
Kluttz pleaded guilty to the abduction charges in April. An accomplice, Aubrey "Mike" Berryman, 26, pleaded guilty to similar charges and was sentenced in May to 24 years in prison. A third man, 75-year-old Frederick A. Baruday, died last month while in custody at a state hospital. He was never tried for the crime.
Neither of Kluttz's attorneys, Leo Sharpe and Denny Dobbins, would comment on the sentence.
Before he was sentenced, Kluttz apologized to Labowitz.
"I can't take back what I've done," he said in a soft, high-pitched voice.
Prosecutors said the abduction had a clear motive: to force Labowitz to drop a lawsuit that sought to remove Kluttz and Baruday as heirs of one of Labowitz's clients. The estate of the elderly woman was worth between $750,000 and $1 million, said Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel.
Labowitz was the appointed guardian of Eloise O'Connor, 87, who was declared incompetent by a judge in late 2003. O'Connor's will left her estate to her nephew, Baruday. Labowitz alleged in a lawsuit that Kluttz, who lived in O'Connor's apartment building, had changed the will to say her property should be left to him and his family after Baruday's death. A hearing on the suit was scheduled for the day after Labowitz's abduction.
Holding a rifle and wearing dark blue military-style fatigues, a mask and a fake police badge, Kluttz showed up about 11:20 p.m. at Labowitz's front door, prosecutors said. Berryman, with a baseball cap pulled over his face, zapped Labowitz's wife with a stun gun. The men handcuffed the lawyer and drove him to a wooded area near the Watergate at Landmark condominium complex in Alexandria.
Labowitz was then taken to a grave, which prosecutors said was large enough to hold a body, and struck repeatedly on the head with a flashlight and shocked 10 to 12 times with the stun gun. Labowitz then agreed to drop the lawsuit. Residents at the complex called police after seeing something suspicious.
Baruday was arrested; Kluttz and Berryman fled but were arrested the next day.
Labowitz, who sat with his family in the courtroom yesterday, declined to comment. But in a statement read by Sengel in court, Labowitz's wife summed up the family's continued suffering.
"How long will I have to be afraid that lights in the driveway and nighttime knocks on the door are not just reminders of past trauma, but carry the potential to be a new threat?" she asked in the statement, which was read moments before Brown imposed the sentence.