Aron lawyer grills her

Ruthann Aron’s attorney put the “middle man” on trial yesterday in the murder-for-hire case involving his client, a wealthy developer and former political candidate.

Defense attorney Barry Helfand grilled Rockville businessman William “Billy” Mossburg Jr. for more than four hours yesterday, and Mr. Mossburg is to return to the witness stand at 9 a.m. today in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Mrs. Aron, 55, is charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband of 30 years, Dr.Barry Aron, and Baltimore lawyer Arthur Kahn.

Earlier, Mr. Mossburg, 55, described meetings and recorded conversations with Mrs. Aron, 55, beginning June 1 and concluding with her arrest June 9 after she left $500 at a Rockville motel for an undercover police officer posing as a hit man.

Several of the 15 recordings were played for the 10-woman two-man jury, including one recorded June 5 at the National Trap and Skeet Club shooting range off Riffleford Road near Germantown.

Shotgun blasts can be heard in the background.

The jurors were given written transcripts of the tape, in which a woman’s voice is heard saying, “What does he charge? . . . If you want someone to disappear, what does he charge?”

By then, Mr. Mossburg said, his cooperation with police had arranged for Detective Terry Ryan to pose as a hit man, and he was trying to arrange for Mrs. Aron to talk by telephone directly with the officer.

But Mrs. Aron kept calling him, asking him to be a buffer, an insulator, and make arrangements, said Mr. Mossburg, who insisted to her that the phony hit man could be trusted.

“If we can’t trust him, we’re all toast,” he says on the tape.

Mr. Mossburg said, “I sure was hoping so,” when asked by prosecutor I. Matthew Campbell if he wanted to get out of the arrangements.

Earlier, the woman’s calm voice states: “I’m kinda imposing on our friendship,” and, “Did I tell you I appreciate it?”

“No,” replies Mr. Mossburg.

“I do,” the woman states.

Mr. Helfand tried to point out discrepancies between Mr. Mossburg’s memory and statements in transcripts. For instance, Mr. Mossburg said Mrs. Aron wanted the targeted victims “eliminated,” but the word was not used in the transcript of his interview with police.

A typical quote in the transcript was: “You don’t understand. I want these people. I want these people gone.”

Mr. Helfand zeroed in on the June 1 meeting in J.J. Muldoon’s on Shady Grove Road when Mr. Mossburg said Mrs. Aron first asked him to help her find a hit man. Mr. Mossburg said he made a Jewish joke to her in an effort to sidetrack her.

“She asked if I was Jewish. I said no. I was Irish German,” Mr. Mossburg said, then, “Some of my ancestors were driving a train to the [Nazi] gas station” during World War II.

Yesterday, Mr. Mossburg admitted it was a “bad joke. But,” he said, Mrs. Aron “didn’t blink an eye.”

Mr. Mossburg said he’d probably been in Mrs. Aron’s presence about six hours in total since meeting her in 1993 and “she seemed like a pretty happy person, no nonsense at times, a kick-butt person.”

Mr. Mossburg described Mrs. Aron as a politician, a hustler, who was planning to run for a seat on the County Council, and quoted her as calling current council member Derek Berlage “a bozo” and saying she was a cinch to win an at-large seat.

Mrs. Aron lost a bid to be the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate and was a member of the Montgomery County Planning Board when arrested.

Mr. Helfand asked if police had given Mr. Mossburg any directions before he went to meetings or had phone conversations with Mrs. Aron. At first, Mr. Mossburg said no, but he later admitted that he had been told not to ask her “leading questions” and “they said to let her do the talking.”

Mrs. Aron has pleaded not criminally responsible – the equivalent in Maryland to an insanity defense. Her lawyers says a history of sexual abuse as a child, a failing marriage and a humiliating political defeat in 1994 led her to ask Mr. Mossburg to find her a contract killer.

Yesterday’s hearings stopped abruptly when one of Mr. Mossburg’s answers threatened to cause a mistrial. Mr. Helfand was asking about Mr. Mossburg’s interrogation by police.

“I told them that I heard she mixed up a batch of chili and it didn’t work,” Mr. Mossburg said, referring to charges that Mrs. Aron tried to poison her husband’s dinner last April.

But that is another trial, scheduled for next month.