Aron gets three years for hiring a hit man: Judge denies plea for treatment

Ruthann Aron sobbed for forgiveness yesterday before a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge sentenced her to three years in jail for hiring a hit man to kill her husband and a lawyer who had crossed her.

“I’m deeply, deeply sorry for everything I have done,” said the 56-year-old former county Planning Board member and candidate for the U.S. Senate. “I accept full responsibility.”

Crying and blowing her nose, Aron apologized to her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, who was outside the courtroom, and said she wished lawyer Arthur Kahn was present in the Rockville courtroom so she could apologize to him, too.

Then, she turned to face her children, Dana Weiner, 28, and Joshua Aron, 26.

“I’d rather be dead than to have brought you to this day,” she said to them. “My life began when I had the two of you. . . . I love you. I love you.”

Aron’s statement took six minutes.

Then, it was Judge Vincent E. Ferretti Jr.’s turn.

“It is clear Mrs. Aron needs treatment [for personality disorders], but she also deserves punishment,” Judge Ferretti said.

For soliciting a hit man to kill her husband, Judge Ferretti imposed a sentence of five years, suspended all but 18 months, and added five years’ probation.

For soliciting a hit man to kill Mr. Kahn, he added a sentence of 10 years with all but 35 months suspended, to be served after the first term is completed.

Judge Ferretti said spouses might sometimes feel like killing each other, but Mr. Kahn was an “innocent bystander, so to speak.”

Judge Ferretti gave Aron credit for 17 months in county custody since her arrest June 9, 1997, and ordered her held in the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville rather than the state prison system.

Judge Ferretti said Dr. Lawrence Kline of Suburban Hospital in Bethesda should continue to prescribe medications to help treat Aron’s mental conditions and work with jail officials to increase treatment.

Aron, a millionaire developer from Potomac, underwent two trials. The first was declared a mistrial after 22 days, when one juror insisted Aron was not criminally responsible, Maryland’s equivalent of an insanity plea.

The second trial ended after 16 days, when Aron pleaded no contest to the charges. She was arrested after making a $500 down payment to an undercover police officer acting as hit man. She told him to kill her husband, with whom she was having difficulties, and Mr. Kahn, who had triumphed over her in a civil lawsuit in the 1980s and then testified against her in a slander suit after she lost the Republican primary election in 1994 to be Maryland’s U.S. Senate candidate.

Yesterday’s sentences bypassed an appeal by Aron’s four attorneys to send her to a treatment program at Cornell University in New York at her expense.

Afterward, Dr. Aron said, “I just hope it’s over. I just hope she gets well.”

His attorney, Stephen Friedman, said Dr. Aron wished his wife could have been sent to Cornell. But “Judge Ferretti is a wise judge” and realized that Maryland could not impose an out-of-state sentence that essentially would free her immediately.

Aron’s attorneys called six witnesses, including her two children, and spent nearly five hours in arguments for a lesser sentence. Deputy State’s Attorney I. Matthew Campbell called one witness and used about 90 minutes.

Solicitation is more serious than crimes such as attempted murder, Mr. Campbell said, because the solicitor arranges for the murder and then is virtually powerless to stop it.

“Think for a moment where we would be if Billy Mossburg had put Mrs. Aron in touch with a real killer,” Mr. Campbell said.

Instead, William Mossburg Jr., a Gaithersburg businessman, put Aron in touch with undercover Officer Terry Ryan. Police made 16 tape recordings, which Mr. Campbell said proved Aron’s persistent attempt.

“My mother made a horrible, horrible mistake,” testified Joshua Aron, a financial investor in New York City. “My sister and I desperately want our mother back. . . . While my father, my sister and myself [have been hurt], the most destroyed was my mother herself.”

Mrs. Weiner, who is completing a doctoral program in psychology at Northwestern University in Chicago, testified, “I see her as being an incredibly brilliant person [who obscured her mental disorder from others.]“

Aron blew kisses to her children before and after their testimony and as she left the courtroom.

“This was a good woman but for a short period of time,” defense attorney Barry Helfand said, arguing that the 532 days she had been in jail, hospital and home detention were punishment enough.

“The loss is her future. . . . It is gone. It is a very serious penalty that is inflicted on her. . . . She’s been subjected to the most humiliation, probably, that anyone has seen in this town,” Mr.Helfand said.

Attorney Judy Catterton, a member of a state sentencing commission, urged Judge Ferretti to give a lesser sentence than recommended in sentencing guidelines. She pointed out that two similar cases in Montgomery County in the past decade resulted in 18-month sentences for the defendants.

Ruthann and Barry Aron had been married for 33 years but have now sued each other for divorce.

In her statement, Aron said, “Barry, I loved you for 31 years. I’ve always done the things to try to please you. I’ve always tried to get your approval.”

“I can’t stand it when someone doesn’t like me,” he said. “It’s just one of my problems.”