Ruthann Aaron, a former Montgomery County Planning Board member and U.S. Senate candidate, ended Friday her legal efforts to have her name cleared in a notorious 1998 case in which she was accused of trying to hire a hitman to kill her husband and a Washington, D.C., attorney.
Aron withdrew her court petition challenging her no contest plea during an afternoon hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Representing herself, she barely spoke, except to say she understood that withdrawing the petition would prevent her from trying to have the no contest plea overturned in the future.
The judge then dismissed the case with prejudice, bringing Aron’s renewed effort to legally clear her name to an end.
Aron, who had been living in Florida for many years, returned to Montgomery County earlier this year and hired an attorney, Victor Wainstein, who in March filed the petition to attempt to have her plea overturned.
Wainstein abruptly withdrew from the case over the summer.
Aron told Bethesda Beat in March she was pursuing the case in an attempt to get a third trial to possibly prove her innocence. The first trial ended in a mistrial and in the second she entered the no contest plea to two counts of solicitation of murder.
She claimed in a book she published earlier this year that she was the victim of years of harassment and forced drug abuse at the hands of her husband, Barry Aron, after failing to win a U.S. Senate Republican primary in 1994. The two were formally divorced in 1999, according to court records.
Ruthann Aron’s case involved police recordings of her telling an undercover police detective that she wanted to read about her husband’s death in the obituaries. She was also accused of attempting to have a D.C. attorney, Arthur Kahn, who had testified against her in a court case, killed as well.
In the petition, she contended that her attorney in her second trial, Barry Helfand, coerced her into taking the no contest plea. Because of the plea, Aron was sentenced to a three-year jail sentence and five years of probation, which she later served.
Helfand is the same attorney who represented Aron in her first trial in the case, which ended in a mistrial. He came in on the last day of Aron’s second trial, just as closing arguments were set to begin, to help negotiate the plea deal at her request, he said.
As she was leaving the courtroom Friday, Aron, 71, said she didn’t regret filing the petition and she stood by her accusations against Helfand.
“Barry Helfand called me a liar, and everything I said is true, he many not like the fact that I said it, but it is true,” Aron said. She said she hasn’t decided whether she would pursue any other methods, outside of the court system, to clear her name.
Helfand said previously that he had Aron’s best interests in mind when he helped her negotiate the plea. On Friday, he sat outside the courtroom as Aron agreed to withdraw the petition. Afterwards, he said he felt sorry for her.
“I’m obviously happy that it’s over, very happy that it’s over,” Helfand said. “But at the same time I do have a lot of sadness about what caused—remember Ruthann was my client and I really tried to win for her—something in her life [that] compelled her to go this way. There’s a certain degree of sadness I have for her because she was so notable, and [the plea] has prevented her from moving forward.”