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    Psychiatrist: Aron Asserted Abuse

    By Katherine Shaver
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, March 10, 1998; Page D03

    A psychiatrist who visited Montgomery County politician Ruthann Aron after her arrest on murder-solicitation charges testified yesterday that Aron regressed into a "primitive state" during a jail therapy session and asserted for the first time that her father had sexually abused her.

    Alan Brody, the second psychiatrist to testify in Aron's defense, was the first witness to say that Aron reported the sexual abuse. Her attorneys say sexual abuse and a brain injury make her "not criminally responsible" under Maryland's insanity laws for trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband and a Baltimore lawyer in June.

    Brody, who treated Aron from 1989 to 1993, said she didn't mention any sexual abuse during her previous therapy sessions. In 1992, however, Aron, a lawyer, immediately "made a link" between a fellow lawyer sexually harassing her and her father hitting her and holding her down as a child, Brody testified. He said that Aron also was preoccupied with women being abused but became defensive when asked about any personal experiences.

    "That's a red flag to mental health workers that there may be more to it than she was letting on," Brody said.

    In the seventh day of Aron's trial, her attorneys sought to portray the former Montgomery planning board member as a mentally ill woman who, although managing to function in her daily life, was sent over the edge by a troubled marriage and a losing U.S. Senate campaign.

    A friend and two lawyers testified yesterday that Aron began acting erratically last spring. Aron was overly anxious, "abrasive" and "on edge" during a Montgomery County Bar Association training session in April, the lawyers said. A friend testified that Aron called her twice late at night and sounded depressed, made bizarre comments and jumped from one topic to another as if confused.

    Brody, the psychiatrist, said he diagnosed Aron in the early 1990s with "Dysthymic Disorder," a chronic feeling of being "down-in-the-dumps" that affects about 6 percent of the population, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

    However, Brody testified yesterday that he now believes Aron's symptoms of drastic emotional changes and deep suspicions were more in line with borderline personality disorder, a sometimes severe mental illness. That diagnosis -- a pervasive pattern of unstable personal relationships, poor self-image and an inability to control impulses -- was the same one that another psychiatrist attributed to Aron in the mid-1970s.

    Prosecutors, however, have depicted Aron as an intelligent, calculating criminal who plotted the murders for at least a month and became severely depressed only after she got caught. Montgomery County Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell questioned Brody's assertions that Aron's "lack of emotion" in secretly recorded police tapes in which she negotiated with a supposed hit man showed that she already was suffering deep depression.

    "A cold, flat, calculating [tone] is appropriate for a conversation with a hit man, don't you think?" Campbell asked.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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