Former rock groupie Cathy Evelyn Smith was sentenced Tuesday to three years in state prison for her role in John Belushi’s 1982 fatal drug overdose, despite the judge’s conclusion that the comedian’s “drug-infested life led to his own death.”
“That fact, however, does not absolve you from responsibility for your own actions,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David A. Horowitz told Smith before imposing the sentence.
” . . . Every time you stuck a needle in someone’s arm, you put their life at risk. And as a result of your actions, John Belushi is dead.
“That behavior, to me, is totally unacceptable,” the judge continued. “To make it clear to you how unacceptable it is, I believe a prison term is necessary.”
Smith, 39, pleaded no contest June 11 to involuntary manslaughter and three counts of furnishing and administering controlled substances to Belushi, 33, in the hours before he was found dead on March 5, 1982, in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont hotel in West Hollywood.
In exchange for her plea, the prosecution dropped a second-degree murder charge and 10 additional drug-related counts.
The prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Elden S. Fox, who recommended a three-year term, said he expects Smith to serve 18 months. Had she been convicted of murder, she could have been sentenced to 25 years to life.
Seated in the front row of the courtroom Tuesday were Belushi’s widow, Judy, 35; his youngest brother, Bill, 26, and Judy Belushi’s sister, Pamela Jacklin, 41.
Jacklin, an attorney, told the court that her sister’s “spiritual beliefs preclude judgment by her” as to what the sentence should be. But Jacklin herself urged a prison term, saying Smith “knows of the dangers (of drug use); she knew of the criminality of her conduct.”
“We must let the drug pushers know that the courts will not look kindly upon them,” Jacklin added.
The Belushi family members declined to talk to reporters.
Smith, a former backup singer and Canadian citizen, also left the courtroom without granting interviews.
‘Compassion and Mercy’
Her attorney, Howard L. Weitzman, said, “She was hoping that the sentence would be tempered with a little more compassion and mercy.”
Weitzman had sought to have Smith placed on probation, rather than be “warehoused” in prison. The attorney said Smith had hoped to be allowed to remain in the residential treatment program for drug addiction in Tarzana that she entered recently after admitting to him that she had resumed her long-time heroin habit.
In arguing against probation, Fox noted that Smith was being sentenced “for the activities she participated in, not for her addiction.”
In an interview with a free-lance writer, Smith said that during the last day of Belushi’s life, she injected the star of the movie “Animal House” and the television show “Saturday Night Live” 20 times with a combination of heroin and cocaine known as a “speedball.”
“John Belushi would not have died when he died except for the heroin that was furnished and administered by the defendant,” the prosecutor said.