The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped charges Tuesday against Jewish Delegate Ariana Kelly, D-Bethesda.
Kelly was arrested June 27 outside the home of her ex-husband, Barak Sanford, and charged with trespassing and indecent exposure.
“We have concluded this matter is better suited for family court,” Ramòn Korionoff, spokesman for county prosecutors, said in a statement. “In many divorce situations, custody, control and transfer for visitation of children can result in very emotional confrontations. We determined this matter…was just such an occurrence.”
Sanford requested that the charges be dropped, Korionoff added.
Kelly, 38, a member of Tifereth Israel Congregation in Washington, was arrested after dropping her two children at Sanford’s home. The couple divorced in November 2014.
According to the charging documents, obtained by WJW, Kelly saw that Sanford’s fiancée was in the house and began to pound on the door and ring the bell, demanding to be let inside. Sanford began videotaping Kelly with his phone. She allegedly responded by baring her breasts.
Sanford called Montgomery County Police. Officers asked Kelly to leave or she would be arrested for indecent exposure, according to the charging documents. She allegedly said, “Arrest me then,” and extended her wrists. She was arrested.
On Tuesday, Kelly and Sanford issued a statement thanking state’s attorney for dropping the case and the police department for “its judgment and common sense.”
“Divorce is an emotional and unfortunate circumstance and we both regret our actions that contributed to a mutual misunderstanding,” the statement continued. “We are moving forward together to make this transition as easy as possible for our children. We request privacy during this time.”
Last week, Kelly’s attorney, Luiz Simmons, vowed to fight the charges.
He described the incident as “a kerfuffle between two formerly married people.” Kelly saw something “that was going to cause the children pain, which she thought had been addressed,” he said.
“She and her ex-husband had reached an agreement” on how to transition the children to his new life, now that he would be living with his fiancée, said Simmons.
“Ariana believed there was evidence that he had already moved his fiancée in, or was in the process,” Simmons said.
Kelly was “reacting as a mother and not as a politician,” her lawyer said. She was “very upset. It took her completely by surprise.”
The arrest raised questions about Kelly’s political future.
Kelly was elected to the State Assembly in 2010 and was re-elected last year. She reportedly was considering a run for the congressional seat currently held by Democrat Chris Van Hollen, who is campaigning for retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s position.
Darrell Anderson, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee, said last week that he had not spoken with Kelly, but understands that divorces can be messy.
“It’s a family issue and it’s unfortunate,” he said.
He said the party has not responded to Kelly’s arrest. Although the incident is of concern, “There probably won’t be anything official until we let it play out.”
Responses to Kelly’s legal troubles were varied among her constituents, friends and collegues.
“Hang in there!” Sammie Moshenberg, former director of Washington operations for National Council of Jewish Women, wrote on Kelly’s Facebook page.
“Stay strong,” added Delegate Edith Patterson, D-Charles County.
According to one female constituent, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, Kelly “has no business representing other people as an elected official.” She called Kelly’s actions “embarrassing.”
But others remain Kelly supporters.
“You are one of the strongest, best champions and advocates for women and families I know,” Ruth Martin wrote on Kelly’s Facebook page. “I am proud to know you, proud to support you, and I have your back.”