A woman who was arrested after turning in her allegedly abusive husband’s guns following a domestic dispute will now only face trespassing charges after the state’s attorney’s office opted to drop the more serious charges against her.
Courtney Irby, 32, was initially also facing charges of theft and burglary after she allegedly broke into her husband’s apartment while he was in jail after being arrested for aggravated battery against her, took his guns and then brought them to police, telling authorities she was in fear for her safety.
But when Courtney Irby arrived at the Lakeland Police Department, she soon found herself behind bars in a case that sparked outrage from advocates against domestic abuse who argued that her arrest could discourage other victims of abuse from asking authorities for help.
State Attorney Brian Haas contends, however, that the story was more complex than initial media reports and stemmed more from a messy divorce rather than an issue of domestic violence or gun rights, according to the Associated Press.
“This is a case of a highly contested divorce, escalating to the point of husband and wife being charged with crimes,” Haas said.
The day before Courtney Irby’s arrest, her husband Joseph Irby was taken to jail after allegedly hitting his wife’s car at a low speed three times outside their child’s day camp.
Courtney was able to obtain a temporary injunction for protection after citing his texting as an issue, but never mentioned his guns to authorities, Haas said.
While her estranged husband remained behind bars for aggravated battery, Courtney Irby reportedly decided she wanted to leave town and went with a friend to her husband’s apartment to get a luggage key. While there, the prosecutor said Courtney Irby decided to take two watches and a GoPro camera from the apartment to sell the items because she was angry her husband had “cleaned out” their bank account.
She took the two handguns as more of “an afterthought,” Haas said, according to the AP.
Courtney Irby then took the weapons to police telling them that she had taken them because she feared for her safety.
“So, are you telling me you committed an armed burglary,” an officer asked her before arresting her and putting her behind bars.
Haas now says that although breaking into the home may have been criminal, the division of property is “a matter best handled by a divorce judge.”
He added that divorce “brings out the absolute worst in people.”
The prosecutor planned to file the aggravated battery charge against Joseph Irby, but will now only pursue a trespassing charge against Courtney, local station WESH reports.
Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani said she was pleased the attorney’s office had opted not to pursue the original charges—which she had deemed were “ridiculous”—against Courtney Irby.
“As we have made clear many times before, we must support and empower our domestic violence survivors, not incarcerate them,” she said.
She added that domestic violence survivors should be able to trust law enforcement and feel comfortable reporting a crime.
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