Charges against Florida woman who turned in husband's guns downgraded

Courtney Irby's estranged husband accused of running into her car

By ClickOrlando.com staff

POLK COUNTY, Fla. - A Florida woman who turned in her husband's guns to authorities after his arrest on domestic violence charges will face a misdemeanor trespassing charge instead of a burglary charge, according to the state attorney's office.

Courtney Irby spent six days in jail on charges of armed burglary and grand theft after she brought the guns from her husband's apartment to the Lakeland police. Joseph Irby was spending one day in jail at the time, accused of trying to run her over.

The Irbys are divorcing. She had obtained a temporary injunction against him and told police her husband wouldn't turn in the guns himself.

Polk County State Attorney Brian Haas announced Tuesday his decisions regarding the charges against both Joseph and Courtney Irby. After reviewing the evidence, Haas said Courtney Irby will be charged with misdemeanor trespassing instead of burglary, which was the charge recommended by Lakeland police.

The state attorney had 21 days to make the decision but because of the July Fourth holiday, decided not to delay.

Haas said that some of the information reported and shared about the couple's arrests was "untrue," saying both parties contributed to the initial incident.

According to text messages and other evidence, on June 14 the Irbys were not leaving a divorce hearing when Joseph Irby is accused of trying to run into his wife, Haas said. The information that the couple was leaving court has been widely reported because it was included in the original arrest report of Joseph Irby.

Text messages show the two were arguing about their child and that she was having coffee with a friend, Haas said.

Joseph Irby was upset, Haas said, because their child did not have a doll while she was at a summer camp and Courtney Irby was in possession of the doll.

Courtney Irby drove to the child's camp with the doll but Joseph Irby was already there, according to Haas. Courtney Irby threw the doll out of the car and left and Joseph Irby followed her, Haas said.

"It was apparent he had more to say to Mrs. Irby," Haas said.

In a 911 call, Courtney Irby said Joseph Irby "tapped" her car with his vehicle. Joseph Irby will face an aggravated battery charge based on examination of their vehicles, Haas said.

All contact happened at a "very low speed," Haas said.

He also said Courtney Irby went to her estranged husband's apartment last month to look for a luggage key and ended up taking watches and camera, which she intended to sell, and the guns were an afterthought.

Haas said both Joseph and Courtney Irby had previously filed temporary injunctions against each other since their divorce proceedings began in 2013.

The arrest sparked immediate backlash and fear that it would deter victims of domestic violence from coming forward.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani tweeted that Courtney Irby's arrest was "ridiculous."

Rep. Eskamani reacted to Haas' claim that some lawmakers are using this case to advance their political platform.

"I push back against that, the reality is that we see how domestic violence survivors are treated in the system and the fact that it took all these efforts to even amplify her personal story," she said.

The domestic violence advocate maintained her position in support of Courtney Irby.

"I would like to think that lawmakers like myself will continue to be bold to promote and support efforts to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers," she said. 

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, called it "horrific."

High-profile Orlando attorney John Morgan posted on his Facebook page that he would represent Courtney Irby for free.

According to Harbor House CEO Michelle Sperzel, domestic violence situations are five times more likely to end in death when firearms are involved.

"The narrative that Mrs. Irby went to the apartment to get the guns to protect herself and her children is false," Haas said. 

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