Business as Usual for Montgomery Court in Kellyanne Conway Assault Case
Ignore ‘elephant in the room’, says county’s former top prosecutor
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway
Image via WikimediaCommons: James McNellis (CC BY 2.0)
Montgomery County Circuit Court will not be making special jury accommodations in the trial of a Chevy Chase woman accused of assaulting White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
Mary Elizabeth Inabinett, 63, was charged with disorderly conduct and second-degree assault following the Oct. 14 incident at a Bethesda Mexican restaurant. She has requested a jury trial and the case is scheduled to begin Monday.
The court has reviewed the dockets for Monday and plans to call 275 jurors, a Maryland Judiciary Administrative Office of the Courts spokesperson said by email.
The county Circuit Court typically summons 250 to 350 jurors to serve on Mondays, the spokesperson said.
Inabinett requested a jury trial in late March, and her attorney has said she will plead not guilty to the charges.
It is unclear whether Conway will be called to testify as a witness or if a plea bargain deal has been discussed.
The incident occurred while Conway was dining at Uncle Julio’s Mexican from Scratch, with Inabinett approaching her yelling “shame on you” and other politically charged comments, according to charging documents. Police identified Inabinett a few weeks after the alleged assault.
Conway stated Inabinett grabbed both of her shoulders from behind and shook her during the incident, according to charging documents.
Conway’s notoriety has brought national attention to the case.
“They key for all parties involved, and that’s the judge, the defense lawyer and the prosecutor, [is] to treat the case like any other case,” said Doug Gansler, a former Montgomery County state’s attorney and Democratic Maryland attorney general.
“You have to not think about the elephant in the room,” said Gansler, who is not involved in the case. “You have to treat any case like this the same way.”
Gansler said he’s been involved in a number of proceedings featuring public figures, including as assistant U.S. attorney in an assault case involving the son of a former network television news anchor.
Jury selection shouldn’t be difficult in a county of Montgomery’s size, Gansler said.
Jurors are selected at random from voter registration rolls; there are more than 664,000 registered voters in the county of 1 million people.
There’s a “vast majority” of people who aren’t familiar with Conway, and those with political biases will be weeded out during the selection process.
“The lawyers come up with the questions at the voir dire for the potential jurors,” Gansler said. “They should and will probe into those issues.”
Voir dire is a screening process used by defense and prosecuting attorneys to pick jurors.
Gansler said the judge will need to look at defendant’s record, prior history and mental health issues, among other factors that go into sentencing, if she’s found guilty. He added that while those with differing views may disagree with every word Conway says, she still has the freedom to say and do what she wants within the law.
“She has every right to live her life and go to restaurants or the movies and do whatever she wants to do just like anybody else,” Gansler said.
Charlie Wright can be reached at email@example.com