A Florida prosecutor will not pursue an armed burglary charge against Courtney Taylor Irby, an alleged domestic violence victim accused of removing her husband’s guns from his home and bringing them to police.
Brian Haas, the state attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit in Florida, said he is instead filing misdemeanor trespassing charges against the woman, who goes by Taylor, for entering her husband’s home without permission.
“This is a case of a highly contested divorce action that has escalated to the point of both the husband and the wife being charged with crimes,” he said on Wednesday at a press conference. “Mrs. Irby is a victim of domestic violence, but that does not excuse her from trespassing and making a property grab while her husband is in jail.”
He added that divorce brings out the worst in people.
Joseph Irby, her estranged husband, is facing a felony charge of aggravated battery.
On June 14, Joseph Irby was arrested after he allegedly rammed his car into the back of his wife’s vehicle repeatedly, scaring her. Police arrested him and charged him with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. She was granted a temporary protective order.
The following day, Taylor Irby testified at a court hearing in her husband’s case.
“I am fearful that my husband is going to kill me,” she said, according to audio of the hearing. “He has threatened me multiple times. And it has been a very, very long journey for me to be heard and believed.”
The judge granted Joseph Irby pretrial release, with the condition that he not own, buy or carry firearms. After the hearing, his wife went to his house, gathered up his guns, and took them to the Lakeland Police Department.
She was then arrested for armed burglary, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
While Joseph Irby spent one night in jail, Taylor Irby spent five nights before being released from custody.
Taylor Irby’s supporters say she took her husband’s guns because she was afraid for her life.
“She knew that this just poked the bear, and he would be coming after her,” her sister Haley Burke told a local news outlet. “She just knew that if the police had the guns, she would be safe for just a little while longer.”
Haas disputed that characterization and criticized the media for repeating it.
“The narrative that Mrs. Irby went to the apartment to get the guns to protect herself and her children is false,” he said, claiming that she likely planned to sell them before a friend counseled her to bring them to law enforcement.
He also downplayed the incident in which her husband hit her car multiple times, noting that they were traveling at slow speeds.
Her 911 call revealed that “she was extremely upset, justifiably scared, and likely over-exaggerating the actions of” her husband, Haas said. “There is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Irby tried to kill Mrs. Irby.”
Her case has brought attention to loopholes in state law that allow individuals who aren’t legally allowed to own guns to remain armed. Under federal law, individuals convicted of domestic violence and people subject to some protective orders are prohibited from owning guns, but enforcement is up to each individual state.
Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) said she was grateful that Haas chose not to prosecute Taylor Irby on the initial charges filed by the Lakeland Police.
“As we have made clear many times before: we must support and empower our domestic violence survivors, not incarcerate them,” she said. “I am hopeful that Ms. Irby’s story will inspire law enforcement agencies to revisit their guidelines and procedures as it pertains to working with domestic violence survivors, that legislators will be emboldened to promote and support gun safety measures that keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, and that Americans across the country will continue to share their stories of surviving domestic violence.”
About four women are killed by intimate partners every day in the U.S., and guns are the most common weapon their killers use. A study published earlier this year found that after almost four decades of decline, homicide among romantic partners is now on the rise because of gun violence.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.