Jail sets rules for celebrities

Tyson, Aron not to get any special treatment

February 07, 1999|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

ROCKVILLE -- They don't have enough spaces filled for a game of Hollywood Squares yet, but jailers at the Montgomery County Detention Center say they've set the rules for celebrity inmates.

The sprawling complex off Interstate 270 is home to two national headline-getters this weekend: boxer Mike Tyson and former politician Ruthann Aron.

Tyson was sentenced Friday to spend a year in jail for attacking two motorists after a Gaithersburg fender-bender last summer. Aron was given two consecutive 18-month sentences in November for trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband and a lawyer.

Aron, a one-time U.S. Senate candidate, may become more famous later this month because of an anticipated jail-house visitor. She has agreed to an interview by Barbara Walters for the ABC news show "20/20" the week of Feb. 22, though her estranged husband, Dr. Barry Aron, is seeking a court order to stop it.

"No autographs, no little discussions," is what acting Director of Corrections Russell Hamill has told his staff.

"They're not celebrities here," Hamill says. "If they're incarcerated, it is because the court has found them guilty of wrongdoing."

Hamill has told his staff to stick to the three C's -- care, custody and control.

Guards are apparently taking his words to heart. Several who were approached yesterday morning outside the jail shook their heads or issued a terse "no comment" when asked about Tyson.

His stay in jail could be over tomorrow -- at least temporarily -- if his lawyers file an appeal.

Adapting to imprisonment

The former heavyweight champ should not be surprised by his surroundings. He spent three years in an Indiana prison after conviction on a rape charge and could be headed back to prison if he's found in violation of probation.

Through her lawyers, Aron has complained about everything at the jail: the food, the clothing, the restrictions on her personal freedom.

Still, she has settled in, teaching reading to other inmates and taking courses from Montgomery College.

TV followed case

The possibility of a national television interview was always in the air during Aron's two trials last year. A producer from NBC shadowed the first trial, which ended in a hung jury. The second trial was halted just before the case went to the jury, when Aron changed her plea from not guilty by reason of insanity to no contest.

Aron's lawyer, Harry Trainor, said his client was contacted by "20/20" about an interview concerning "mental illness and its effect on incarcerated persons."

After consulting with her psychiatrist about the interview's possible side effects on her treatment, "she has decided to go ahead with this," Trainor said.

"Her interest in speaking to anyone has to do with her interest in support of mental health issues," he said.

During her second trial, Aron wore a button in support of the National Association for Mental Illness.

Trainor said Aron would not be paid for her appearance because "she doesn't have any other agenda."

But lawyers for Dr. Barry Aron believe otherwise. On Friday, they asked Montgomery Circuit Judge D. Warren Donohue to issue a gag order to stop the interview.

His lawyers say the publicity would taint the jury pool for her $24 million malpractice lawsuit against him, which is scheduled for trial in September. Ruthann Aron contends her husband gave her a potentially dangerous combination of drugs and pushed her toward suicide.

Barry Aron denies that claim and has sued his wife for emotional distress for trying to have him killed and for the trauma surrounding the criminal trials.

A spokesman for ABC said Friday night that "20/20" is moving ahead with the interview.

Hamill said he will not ask to pose for a picture with Walters. The space on his office wall, he said, is reserved for a picture of only one woman -- "my wife."

Pub Date: 2/07/99

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