Aron handed 3 years in plot Ex-Senate candidate tried murder-for-hire of husband, lawyer

Children plead for leniency

November 24, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

A Montgomery County circuit judge sentenced Ruthann Aron to three years in jail after an emotional daylong hearing that included her sobbing apologies to the intended targets of her murder-for-hire plot.

Aron, 56, began weeping as Judge Vincent Ferretti Jr. outlined her punishment for trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband and another man.

"I wish you luck, Ms. Aron. You're still alive to become a better person. The two people whose deaths you tried to achieve are still alive," Ferretti said after passing sentence.

The hearing began routinely with medical testimony and built to two passionate pleas for mercy by her children that left lawyers and others in the courtroom shaken.

But it was the millionaire developer and former U.S. Senate candidate who brought stone silence to cavernous Courtroom 1 as she began a six-minute speech.

"I can't believe that I'm standing here today," she began in a quiet monotone. "The shame. The horror. The remorse that I feel. I do take responsibility for my conduct. I am terribly, terribly, terribly sorry."

Aron said she thought about her actions all the time.

"My mind did blow. I did crack up or whatever the expression is," she continued. "That's an explanation, not any excuse."

She said she had hoped that her estranged husband, Dr. Barry Aron, and lawyer Arthur Kahn would be in the courtroom so that she could have apologized to them.

'I would rather be dead'

Then Aron turned and faced her children, Joshua Aron and Dana Weiner, sitting in the second row.

"I would rather be dead than to have brought you to this day," she said, her voice breaking. "I love you. I want a chance to be with you. I give to you my heart."

She ended by reciting a Yom Kippur prayer she said she learned as a child and trailed off, "Amen," before sobbing uncontrollably.

Aron did not testify during her two trials. The first, in March, ended in a mistrial. The second halted minutes before the case was to have gone to the jury in July when Aron pleaded no contest to the charges.

At both trials, jurors listened to 15 taped conversations among Aron, a local businessman who acted as a go-between and the undercover police officer posing as a hit man.

Aron was heard plotting the crimes, dickering over the price of the down payment, spelling the names of her victims and choosing the order and manner in which they would die.

She was arrested June 9, 1997, outside a Rockville motel after she made the $500 down payment.

Her lawyers never denied her actions, but contended that she was mentally ill and unaware that what she was doing was wrong.

Pleas for leniency

Joshua Aron, 26, a New York stockbroker, told Ferretti that his fTC mother "fell apart" and deserved leniency.

"She is teetering on a very narrow ledge," he said, weeping. "My sister and I want our mother back. My mother made a horrible, horrible mistake. Please consider how sick she was. Please let my family begin to heal."

Weiner's statement was part distressed daughter, part psychologist, which she will become upon graduation in June from Northwestern University.

She acknowledged her mother's flaws, which brought a faint smile to Aron's face, and her strengths.

"She's lost her credibility, her reputation, her family as she knew it, her dignity, her lifestyle," said Weiner, 28, her eyes filling with tears.

Aron blew Weiner a kiss as she stepped from the witness stand.

Defense lawyers asked Ferretti to place Aron in a program at the Cornell University Medical Center in White Plains, N.Y., for a year of intensive therapy and drug treatment followed by outpatient help.

Aron, said lawyer Harry Trainor, "has the demeanor of a beaten dog."

Doctors could stabilize her manic depression, deal with her borderline personality disorder and help her come to terms with the impending breakup of her 31-year marriage, Trainor said.

But Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell said Aron could get treatment while incarcerated at the Patuxent Institution for Women in Jessup.

"Each case must be judged on its own facts, and the facts here are serious," Campbell said. "Ruthann Aron made a commitment to have not one but two people killed."

Therapy and punishment

Ferretti agreed. "It's clear that Ms. Aron needs treatment, but she also needs punishment because this crime deserves punishment."

The judge said he was more disturbed about the contract that Aron took out on Kahn, a man she barely knew, because he had testified against her in a civil suit.

Ferretti gave Aron a 10-year prison term, with all but 35 months suspended, and gave her credit for 17 months of pretrial detention.

In the case involving Barry Aron, Ferretti sentenced her to a five-year term with all but 18 months suspended. He ordered Aron to serve the two terms consecutively in the Montgomery County Detention Center, where she will continue to be treated by her private doctor.

Campbell declined to comment after the sentencing.

One of Aron's lawyers, Barry Helfand, was grateful that she received credit for time served, but said he thought the sentence "was 18 months too hard."

Barry Aron's lawyer, Stephen Friedman, said his client was satisfied that his wife would be getting treatment.

Ruthann Aron has 30 days to file an appeal.

Pub Date: 11/24/98

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