- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

The father of "thrill" killer Samuel Sheinbein was disbarred yesterday by Maryland's highest court for helping his son flee to Israel in 1997.
In a 5-2 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals took away Sol Sheinbein's law license for putting his son on a plane to Israel even though he knew police suspected Samuel of killing acquaintance Alfredo Tello. Getting his son out of the country sparked a diplomatic battle between the United States and Israel over extraditing the teenager for trial.
Mr. Sheinbein followed his son to Israel to escape charges of obstruction of justice filed against him in Montgomery County. Yesterday's ruling also could affect Mr. Sheinbein's ability to practice law in Israel.
Writing for the majority, Judge Dale Cathell decried Mr. Sheinbein's "utter abandonment of proper professional conduct," saying Mr. Sheinbein prevented a Maryland jury from judging his son.
"[Sol Sheinbein] effectively usurped the role of 12 Maryland citizens and substituted it with his own parental instincts. Respondent made it impossible for the justice system to work," Judge Cathell wrote.
Mr. Sheinbein's attorney, Melvin Bergman, said he planned to notify his client by e-mail but had no immediate comment on the decision.
Mr. Sheinbein practices patent law, with clients that include American companies. Losing his law license likely means he won't be able to work for those firms, said Melvin Hirshman, bar counsel for the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission.
"I would think it has severely impacted his ability to earn a living with his Maryland law license," Mr. Hirshman said.
Montgomery prosecutors said Mr. Tello's murder was a "thrill killing," committed by Samuel, then 17, and another friend, Aaron Needle, for pleasure. Mr. Tello's charred remains were found Sept. 19, 1997, in a vacant Silver Spring home not far from the Sheinbein family home. The body had been bludgeoned, dismembered with a circular saw and burned.
Police soon suspected the pair. Samuel Sheinbein was seen near the crime scene and tools from his family's garage were found there. The Sheinbein home was searched Sept. 19 while Mr. Sheinbein was home. He later told a grand jury that he read the search warrant.
Mr. Sheinbein met his son a few days later in New York, bringing the teen's passport and buying him a one-way ticket on a Sept. 21 flight to Israel. Once there, Samuel claimed Israeli citizenship because his father was born in pre-state Israel.
Israel rebuffed Montgomery County's efforts to extradite Samuel, and Israel's Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that he was a citizen. Samuel later pleaded guilty in an Israeli court to Mr. Tello's murder and is serving a 24-year sentence.
Mr. Needle committed suicide in the Montgomery County jail before his trial.
Mr. Sheinbein said he didn't know police had a warrant for his son's arrest when he put him on the plane and only learned about the arrest warrant the next day. He also said he turned over evidence to police and gave authorities his son's credit card and cell phone numbers.
But the court ruled Mr. Sheinbein knew his son was wanted by police when he helped him leave the country.
"It is undisputed that [Mr. Sheinbein] knew, prior to his actions in encouraging and aiding his son in absconding to Israel, that his son had committed a homicide," the court said.
Dissenting Judges John Eldridge and Irma Raker said Mr. Sheinbein's actions didn't constitute obstruction of justice because he wasn't aware of the arrest warrant. Mr. Sheinbein also sent his son to a country where he could be, and was, punished for the crime, they said.
"The extreme manner and tone of the majority opinion might lead a reader to conclude that the respondent was the one who committed the homicide," Judge Eldridge wrote.
Montgomery County has an outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. Sheinbein on the obstruction of justice charge.
State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, who fought to have Samuel extradited, said the disbarment is one of the few chances the state will have to take legal action against Mr. Sheinbein.
"He shouldn't benefit from his law license at the same time he is a fugitive from the law," Mr. Gansler said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide