The man who informed police about Ruthann Aron's alleged murder-for-hire scheme and helped them tape her making the plans, insisted yesterday that Aron had not been coaxed into her actions.
On a June evening last year, when she spoke to him about her feelings of vengeance and asked him to help find someone to "eliminate" two then-unidentified people, William H. Mossburg Jr. said he was frightened.
"At some point I'm telling her this doesn't make sense," Mossburg testified yesterday in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
When pressed by Aron's lawyers, who are constructing an entrapment defense, Mossburg was adamant that police had not coached him to elicit damaging statements from the prominent developer.
"I was responding to her requests and along the way, on more than one occasion, I tried to talk her out of it," he said.
Aron, a former Montgomery County Planning Board member and one-time U.S. Senate candidate, is charged with two counts of solicitation to commit murder. Her alleged targets were her husband, Dr. Barry Aron, who was preparing to file for divorce, and lawyer Arthur Kahn, who had testified against her in a civil suit.
Yesterday, seven tapes of Mossburg's conversations with Aron were played in court.
A former Rockville trash hauler, Mossburg had contributed more than $1,000 to Aron's political campaigns, but the two were no more than acquaintances, he said. Their conversations had always been casual.
Nevertheless, Aron did not take long to get to the point after arranging a meeting with him on June 1 last year. While sipping scotch and water at J.J. Muldoons restaurant in Gaithersburg, she spoke of her anger at two men whom she said had crossed her. She said she believed in "an eye for an eye," Mossburg testified.
"She was hellbent for getting these guys," he said -- he told her he didn't want to know their names. "She wanted to know if I knew anybody who could take care of it, make it go away, eliminate them."
After telling her he would make some phone calls, Mossburg said he paid for the drinks, got in his car, nervously packed his pipe full of tobacco, and went home. He contacted police the next day.
Asked yesterday about Aron's demeanor during that conversation, he said: "She looked just like she did every other day, including today She was direct. She wants what she wants when she wants it, and she wants it now."
Throughout their conversations, the tapes show, Aron worried about getting caught. As she left that first meeting with Mossburg, she asked him if he was wearing a wire. She wanted him to call her by a code name. She spoke of the danger of talking on cell phones. And she speculated that the hit man Mossburg chose might be an undercover officer.
"If this is a guy we can't trust effectively, I'm gone," she told him in one conversation.
As the tapes were played yesterday, Aron spent much of the time with her elbows propped on the defense table, one hand shielding her eyes and the other occasionally dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.
Aron has pleaded not criminally responsible, Maryland's version of an insanity defense.
Mossburg yesterday acknowledged once commenting that he would have preferred to see Aron get some professional help to avoid the situation going as far as it did.
"I still feel that way today, but it ain't up to me," he said.
Pub Date: 7/10/98