Original article no longer available
The Fayetteville Observer, (NC)
September 25, 1992
Author: David Sinclair, Staff Writer
CARTHAGE — A Pinehurst doctor’s guilty plea to hiring an undercover officer to murder his wife’s friend could allow him to resume practicing medicine, his lawyer said Thursday.
Steven Michael Bird, 35, was sentenced this week to six months in the Moore County Jail without the possibility of early release. But because only a misdemeanor conviction was entered into court records, the plea bargain means he can apply to get his medical license returned, lawyer Bruce Cunningham said.
“The sentence was structured to give him an incentive to put this behind him,” Mr. Cunningham said. “It provides punishment and rehabilitation.”
Mr. Bird’s sentence was for misdemeanor solicitation to assault and injure. Under the plea bargain, Mr. Bird received a two-year suspended sentence and three years special probation, was fined $10,000 and surrendered his medical license. He was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service, to undergo treatment for drug abuse and to have no contact with his wife or prosecution witnesses.
In the agreement, Mr. Bird pleaded guilty to felonious solicitation to maim but that conviction was not recorded under a procedure called “prayer for judgment continued.” If he violates any of the terms of the agreement, he could face a 10-year prison sentence on the felony count.
Mr. Cunningham said the structure of the plea bargain will allow Mr. Bird to reapply to the state medical board for reinstatement in about three years, once all of the terms are satisfied.
Mr. Cunningham said that a felony conviction would make it nearly impossible for Mr. Bird to regain his license, which he wants to do.
“That is why he was willing to perform active time,” Mr. Cunningham said.
Mr. Bird, a family practice doctor, was charged in May with solicitation to commit murder and solicitation to maim. He was accused of attempting to hire an undercover SBI agent first to stab and then kill Jim Frazier of Southern Pines, a friend of Mr. Bird’s wife, Jordan Bird.
Officers seized $1,500 in cash when he tried to pay the undercover officer to commit the crime.
The lawyer attributed Mr. Bird’s problems to the use of anti-depressant drugs, including Prozac. He said Mr. Bird was taking four times the normal dose of Prozac.
“He was taking excessive amounts and it impaired his judgment,” he said.
The terms of the plea deal were announced in advance and approved by lawmen involved, Jordan Bird and others in the case, Mr. Cunningham said. Mr. Bird is expected to be divorced from his wife in November, the first anniversary of their formal separation.
Mr. Bird had been free on $250,000 bail and was staying with relatives in Texas, Mr. Cunningham said.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the plea arrangement. Section: Local & State Copyright 1992, 2002 The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer Record Number: 505523