Judge clears way for Aron to be incarcerated in hospital

A Montgomery County judge said yesterday that former county Planning Board member Ruthann Aron can be freed from jail on $25,000 bond, but only to be transferred under guard to a locked hospital ward.

Mrs. Aron has been in jail since June 9 on charges that she tried to hire a hit man to kill her husband, urologist Dr. Barry Aron, and a Baltimore lawyer, Arthur Kahn. She was subsequently also indicted for trying to kill her husband by poisoning his chili.

District Court judges have twice refused to set bond for Mrs. Aron, but her attorneys mounted an even more impassioned plea yesterday, claiming she could not get sufficient psychiatric and medical treatment in jail. They presented letters from four doctors – including Dr. Aron – stating that Mrs. Aron should be transferred to a hospital.

“I feel desperate for this woman’s sake,” said Barry Helfand, one of her three attorneys. “This woman is in need of treatment and she’s not getting it and she sits there in jail.”

Mrs. Aron could be seen on closed-circuit television during the hourlong hearing, bowing her head, lifting her left hand to forehead or chin, wiping her face with a handkerchief and rocking back and forth in a chair. She was wearing dark glasses and a soft collar for an old back injury. Deputy State’s Attorney I. Matthew Campbell argued that all the psychiatric and medical treatment Mrs. Aron requires is available at the jail.

“She requested a soft collar. She’s got one provided by the detention center,” he said.

He also argued that she might flee if released, noting that investigators learned that Mrs. Aron has said in the last few years she might move and start a new life in Florida or Colorado.

“We think she does pose dangers to others,” Mr. Campbell said. She was arrested because the “hit man” she contacted turned out to be an undercover policeman, he said. Otherwise, Mr. Campbell said, “we might have two dead people on our hands.”

But defense attorney Judith Catterton argued that the risk of flight is minimal. She said Mrs. Aron, a millionaire developer and candidate for U.S. Senate in 1994, has been held illegally because of the great amount of publicity attending her case.

The Montgomery County Council voted Tuesday to remove her from the county Planning Board because she is unable to discharge her duties while in jail.

“The problem here is because of the spotlight on this case,” Mrs. Catterton said.

Circuit Judge Paul A. McGuckian set bond at $25,000, but directed that he must have confirmation that Mrs. Aron, 54, will be transferred under guard and will be kept locked up in the hospital.

Mr. Helfand anticipated the requirements would be met and Mrs. Aron would be moved this weekend to Suburban Hospital. Mrs. Aron is to pay the hospital bills.