A doctor pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing a hand from a cadaver at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark. The hand was later found by police at the home of a stripper in South Plainfield.

Under a plea agreement, Ahmed Rashed, 26, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of third-degree theft, said Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Judson Hamlin.

Rashed will be prohibited from seeking a license to practice medicine in New Jersey while he is on probation. Hamlin said he will recommend five years of probation at Rashed's sentencing hearing, scheduled for March 1.

"It was certainly a unique case, but one that attracted more attention than more serious crimes before and after," Hamlin said.

Rashed got to know Linda Kay, an exotic dancer, while he was a medical student. He gave the left hand to Kay, 31, during one of his visits the club where she worked, Hott 22 in Union, which features all-nude dancers.

"Our investigation revealed that she expressed an interest to him in acquiring one, and he followed through with her request," Hamlin said.

Rashed's attorney, Kalman Geist, said his client, while a first-year medical student in 2002, removed the hand from a fully dissected cadaver that was scheduled for cremation.

"He was unaware that the act was criminal, although a lack of that knowledge is not a defense," Geist said.

"He meant no disrespect," Geist added. "It appears that this body had served its purpose."

South Plainfield police responding to a report of a suicidal man at Kay's home in July did not find a man, but did discover the severed hand in a jar on Kay's dresser.

A grand jury indicted Kay on a receiving stolen property charge, which was resolved when she agreed to be enrolled in a supervision program for one year, Hamlin said.

Kay's attorney, Donald DiGioia, said his client will appear in court on Feb. 9 and has maintained that she is not guilty.

He said Rashed made an error in judgment as a medical professional, "but she's not guilty of any crimes," DiGioia said. "Unfortunately, the doctor violated the trust that the hospital had in him. She's in a different situation than a medical professional."

Rashed is currently in his third-year of residency at a hospital of the Watts section of Los Angeles.

"A lot of people do things when they're 22 that they wouldn't do 10 years later," Geist said.