LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A former scientific adviser to Howard Hughes pleaded no contest to a reduced charge in a Beverly Hills hotel slaying and was freed after being sentenced to the two years he had already served.

John Herbert Meier, 52, had been charged with arranging the 1974 stabbing death of Canadian businessman Alfred Netter to collect a $400,000 life insurance policy. The policy was a condition of a loan Meier allegedly had arranged for Netter, a hero of the 1948 Israeli war of independence.

Meier consistently denied any involvement, and on Tuesday, Superior Court Judge William Pounders accepted his no-contest plea to being an accessory after the fact to murder. Pounders recommended that parole be served in Canada, Meier's homeland.

Outside court, Meier emphasized that although a no-contest plea is equivalent to a guilty plea under criminal law, it's not the same thing to him.

''I didn't plead guilty, because I wasn't guilty,'' he said. ''I pleaded no contest, because it was the only way to just end this case.''

Meier maintained he had been set up in the case because political enemies were angry that he had revealed a business relationship between Hughes and Donald Nixon, the brother of former President Nixon.

William R. McCrory of Las Vegas, Nev., was initially indicted on charges that he had stabbed Netter 15 times at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, but the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence after a key witness, Lee Shook, vanished, Deputy District Attorney Michael Brenner said Tuesday.

Shook, who had served in the Marines in Korea with McCrory and had been best man at his wedding, has never been found, Brenner said.

Meier pleaded no contest to being an accessory after the fact to murder by harboring a suspect whose identity was never released, Brenner said.

''That's always going to remain a mystery,'' Brenner said, explaining that Meier couldn't be compelled to reveal who the person was. ''Meier had knowledge of the murder and has kept his knowledge secret. In a sense, if you ask who he was harboring, you might say himself.

''I believe that Mr. Meier either alone or with others hired and carried out the murder of Netter,'' Brenner told reporters.