A Florida woman who was arrested after taking her ex-husband's guns from his home after a domestic dispute and turning them over to police will be charged with misdemeanor trespassing instead of theft and burglary, a state prosecutor said Wednesday.
Courtney Irby, 32, was arrested on June 15 when she brought two guns to the Lakeland Police Department and told them they belonged to her estranged husband, Joseph Irby, who had rammed her car from behind three times the previous day after they got into an argument outside of their child's day camp. Joseph Irby was arrested and charged with aggravated battery in that incident.
Courtney Irby's arrest prompted widespread outrage, with Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Fla., saying law enforcement was setting a "scary precedent."
"This is a case of a highly contested divorce, escalating to the point of husband and wife being charged with crimes," State Attorney Brian Haas said at a press conference Wednesday.
Eskamani said she was glad prosecutors weren't pursuing the more severe and "ridiculous" charges against Courtney Irby and reiterated that "we must support and empower our domestic violence survivors, not incarcerate them."
"We want domestic violence survivors to trust law enforcement, and to feel comfortable reporting a crime," Eskamani said in a statement.
Prosecutors say that while Courtney Irby claimed she was in fear for her safety when she took the guns from the home, she initially only cited her husband's texting as an issue. Courtney got a temporary injunction for protection against him after the car incident but did not mention the guns until later.
Haas said that Courtney Irby wanted to take herself and her children away from her husband and went with a friend to Joseph Irby's house to get a luggage key. When she got there, she took two watches and a GoPro camera that she intended to pawn for money as retaliation against Joseph, who had allegedly "cleaned out" their bank account. It was then that she discovered the guns, which Haas described as "merely an afterthought."
When Irby went to turn them over to police, she was arrested and spent six days in jail after the officer she spoke to said: “So, are you telling me you committed an armed burglary?”
Although Haas conceded that Courtney Irby entering her ex-husband's home may be criminal, the dispute over property is "a matter best handled by a divorce judge."
The prosecutor added that divorce "brings out the absolute worst in people," and warned that "if my office gets into the business of husbands and wives disputing over property, I'm going to have to hire 10 more lawyers."