Former MoCo Council Candidate’s Conviction for ‘Solicitation to Commit Murder’ is Upheld

Former Montgomery County Council Candidate, Ruthann Aron, was denied by the Court of Special Appeals her attempt to overturn her previous conviction for solicitation to commit murder, after attempting to hire a hitman to kill her husband and another man in 1997. Aron moved to Maryland in the 1970s with her husband and two children. While here, she acquired a law degree at Catholic University and became a real estate developer. She was later on the Montgomery County Planning Board.

Ruthann Aron was was arrested in June 1997 for attempting to hire a hitman. She approached William Mossberg, the owner of a local landfill, who immediately went to the police and worked with them to catch Aron attempting to hire the hitman to kill her husband- a urologist named Barry Aron, and another man- Arthur Khan, a lawyer who prosecuted a fraud case against Ruthann Aron and testified against her at a later slander trial stemming from a run for U.S. Senator from Maryland in 1994, which she lost the Republican nomination to former Tennessee Senator Bill Brock (who later lost to Paul Sarbanes).

 

According to Maryland-Defense-Attorneys.com:

Ruthann and Barry Aron sat down for dinner at their home in Potomac. He had turkey burgers. She had lobster. They spoke of her campaign for Montgomery County Council and of their daughter’s upcoming anniversary, and then they went to bed. As they’ve done for years, they slept in separate bedrooms.

Nothing unusual, Barry Aron remembered.

The next day, he said, a police detective told him that his wife of 30 years, a Montgomery County Planning Board member and former candidate for U.S. Senate, had tried to pay a hit man $20,000 to kill him and another man.

 

 

 

She was convicted in 1998 and ordered to serve three years in county jail. According to a Washington Post article from 1998, “The sentence was substantially more than the one year in a private New York psychiatric hospital at her own expense that Aron’s attorneys had sought. But it also was a marked departure from the eight to 18 years in a state prison that sentencing guidelines recommend.” 

Additional information can be found below and in the June 27th article by Caitlynn Peetz of Bethesda Beat.

Factual Background of the case, from MDCourts: In February and March of 1998, Green went to trial on charges of solicitation to commit murder, resulting in a hung jury. In July 1998, Green was retried on the same charges, but on the day closing arguments were set to begin, she entered a plea of nolo contendere to two counts of solicitation to commit murder. The court accepted her plea and she was later sentenced to a term of ten years, with all but thirty-five months suspended, and a consecutive term of five years, all but eighteen months suspended, with credit for time served and supervised probation upon release.

On March 8, 2016, Green, through counsel, filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis asserting that her plea was not knowingly and intelligently entered and that she had received ineffective assistance of counsel. The State thereafter filed an answer. A hearing was scheduled for August 26, 2016. Days before the hearing, Green’s attorney withdrew and Green, appearing as a self-represented litigant, filed a Motion for 60-Day Continuance or in the Alternative Dismissal without Prejudice. The Assistant State’s Attorney filed an opposition urging the circuit court to move the case along. Green and the Assistant State’s Attorney then appeared for a hearing on the motion. At the hearing, Green voluntarily withdrew her petition for writ of error coram nobis with prejudice:

[The State]: Your Honor, it’s my understanding having chatted briefly with Ms. Aron[3] this afternoon that she wishes to withdraw this matter with prejudice.

[The Court]: Is that your intent?

[Aron]:  Yes. Yes, Your Honor.

[The Court]: And do you understand that by withdrawing it with prejudice, you can’t bring it back again?

[Aron]: Yes, I do.

[The Court]: Okay, the petition is dismissed with prejudice, thank you. (emphasis added).

Discussion: After obtaining new counsel, in June 2021, Green filed a second petition for writ of error coram nobis. The circuit court denied Green’s second petition, finding that it was barred by the dismissal of her first petition. This timely appeal followed.

The doctrine of res judicata bars the same parties from litigating a second lawsuit on the same claim, or any other claim arising from the same occurrence and issues that could have been raised in the first suit but were not. Lizzi v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 384 Md. 199, 206-07 (2004). Under Maryland law, the elements of res judicata are: (1) that the parties in the present litigation are the same or are in privity with the parties to the earlier dispute; (2) that the claim presented in the current action is identical to the one determined in the prior adjudication; and (3) that there has been a final judgment on the merits. Colandrea v. Wilde Lake Comm. Ass’n., 361 Md. 371, 392 (2000).

Each of the elements are met in this case. First, the parties involved—Green and the State—are the same. Second, the claims she raises—that her guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary and that her trial counsel provided constitutionally deficient assistance—are the same. And third, there was a final judgment in the first action. Thus, all three elements of res judicata are satisfied.

Green does not dispute any of this, nor could she. Rather, she argues that the circuit court erred by determining that her 2016 withdrawal of her first petition was with prejudice. According to Green, the circuit court erred in doing so because it failed to assess on the record the factors required to distinguish a dismissal with prejudice from a dismissal without prejudice. She relies for this proposition on Aventis Pasteur, Inc. v. Skevofilax, 396 Md. 405 (2007) (listing factors to aid the circuit court in determining whether to dismiss a cause of action with or without prejudice). We do not reach that question, however. Although her written motion sought either a postponement or a dismissal without prejudice, at the time of the motion’s hearing, as is clear from the hearing transcript quoted above, Green knowingly and intelligently dismissed her petition with prejudice. Moreover, the court specifically confirmed that Green understood that her dismissal with prejudice meant that she “couldn’t bring it back again,” to which Green responded, “Yes.”

We will give full effect to Green’s request to dismiss her first petition with prejudice and, therefore, hold that she has waived the argument that her dismissal should have been without prejudice. Moreover, having concluded that her second petition was barred by res judicata, we further hold that the circuit court did not err by dismissing it.

We also find no merit in Green’s argument that the circuit court judge was required to recuse herself from consideration of the 2021 petition because the same judge had presided over the 2016 petition and it created the “appearance of impropriety” for the judge to review her own ruling. Contrary to Green’s assertion, “[p]articipation in prior legal proceedings involving related parties or issues is simply not grounds for a judge to recuse [herself].” Boyd v. State, 321 Md. 69, 79 (1990) (quoting Carey v. State, 43 Md. App. 246, 249 (1979)). Green raises nothing that would overcome the “strong presumption that judges are impartial participants in the legal process.” Jefferson-El v. State, 330 Md. 99, 107 (1993) (internal citations omitted). Thus, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Green’s motion for recusal.

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17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Now in its 17th year, the Kensington Day of the Book Festival is a family-friendly street festival featuring 150+ renowned authors, poets, and literary organizations. Enjoy live music on five stages, special guest speakers, military veteran writers and comedians, poetry readings, cookbook demos, children's program, and much more.

Admission is free, and attendees will also be able to explore a marketplace of books and food offerings from local vendors.

Not your average book festival! This festival offers something for everyone!

17th Annual Kensington Day of the Book Festival

Sunday, April 21, 2024, 11am-4pm (held rain or shine!)

Howard Avenue, Kensington, MD 20895

www.dayofthebook.com

Instagram: @kensingtonbookfestival

Contact: Elisenda Sola-Sole, Festival Director

[email protected]

301-949-9416 (text preferred)

FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival

Get ready to experience the vibrant colors, tantalizing flavors, and infectious rhythms of the Caribbean at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival! Hosted by RHU LLC, this exciting festival is set to take place on May 18, 2024, at the picturesque 16700 Barnesville Rd in Boyds, MD.

Step into a world where the Caribbean spirit comes alive! From 12:00 PM onwards, immerse yourself in a sensory journey that celebrates the unique culture, cuisine, and music of the Caribbean. Whether you're an African American, a Reggae or Soca music enthusiast, a wine lover, or part of the vibrant Caribbean diaspora, this festival promises to delight and captivate you in every way.

Let the enticing aromas of mouthwatering Caribbean dishes tantalize your taste buds. Feast on traditional delicacies prepared by expert chefs, showcasing the rich and diverse culinary heritage of the Caribbean. Indulge in flavorful jerk chicken, succulent seafood, and delectable plantain dishes that will transport you straight to the islands.

Accompanying the culinary extravaganza is a carefully curated selection of premium wines, ensuring the perfect pairing for your palate. Sip on fine wines from renowned vineyards, each sip a reflection of the Caribbean's vibrant spirit. Discover new flavors, expand your wine knowledge, and savor unforgettable moments with every glass.

As the sun sets, get ready to groove to the infectious rhythms of Caribbean music. Feel the pulsating beats of reggae, soca, dancehall, and calypso, moving your body to the lively melodies. Live performances by talented musicians and performers will keep the energy high, ensuring a night of unforgettable entertainment.

Don't miss this opportunity to embrace the Caribbean spirit and celebrate the arrival of spring in style! Tickets are available on AllEvents, so secure your spot today. Join us at the FEST OF SPRING Caribbean Wine Food & Music Festival, where cultures collide and unforgettable memories are made.

LIVE PERFORMANCES By: CULTURE Feat. Kenyatta Hill, EXCO LEVI, IMAGE BAND, RAS LIDJ REGG'GO with Special Guest SUGAR BEAR FROM E.U. & MORE! & MORE!

MUSIC By: DJ ABLAZE, DJ SMALLY & NAJ SUPREME

2 NIGHT Camping packages available: RV/CAMPER $200 | TENTS $150 Starting on Friday May 17 @ 5pm | 30 RV SPACES | 30+ TENT SPACES

KIDS 12 & UNDER FREE!!!

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