"Prosecuting (Taylor) Irby sets a scary precedent that if someone seeks help to escape abuse, they will be punished for it," wrote Florida House of Representatives Democrat Anna Eskamani

By Ian Horswill

Posted on June 25, 2019

There is growing outrage over the arrest of Taylor Irby who turned in her estranged husband’s gun to police after he was held on domestic violence charges.

Anna Eskamani, a Democrat in the Florida House of Representatives, has written to Polk County State Attorney Brian Haas asking him to drop the prosecution of 32-year-old Courtney “Taylor” Irby. Haas is in charge of prosecutions for the 10th Judicial Circuit, which includes Polk County, US.

In the letter, Eskamani said Taylor Irby was fearful of her estranged husband, 35-year-old Joseph Irby, might harm her or their two children. A judge has ordered Joseph Irby not to possess weapons after being released from jail having allegedly attacking Taylor Irby with his vehicle.

“As public officials, it is our responsibility to create an environment where those who experience abuse can report it and ask for help,” Eskamani wrote. “Prosecuting Ms Irby sets a scary precedent that if someone seeks help to escape abuse, they will be punished for it.”

Anna V Eskamani
Anna Eskamani is campaign to retain her Democrat seat on Florida House of Representatives.

Jacob Orr, a spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office, said the office had received Eskamani’s letter. He added the office wouldn’t comment on details of the case.

“I can say that we are fully reviewing all the allegations and all the evidence as it comes in from law enforcement,” Orr told the Lakeland Ledger. “Once we conduct a full review, we will be making decisions on whether to file charges.”

Taylor Irby, of Polk County, was arrested on 15 June and charged with armed burglary of a dwelling and grand theft of a firearm after she entered the unit apartment of her husband, Joseph Irby. Taylor Irby then handed his guns to the Lakeland Police Department, according to the arrest affidavit.

A judge had previously ordered the guns to be turned in, the Orlando Weekly reported. When Irby handed them in at the police station she was told she was breaking the law, despite claiming her husband would refuse to comply, and even though Taylor Irby had already applied for a temporary injunction against her husband and the two were in the process of a divorce.

Florida is among the 35 states in the US that does not ban individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes and those subject to restraining orders from purchasing firearms.

Joseph Irby’s lawyer Robert Peddy, said Taylor had no right to allegedly break into the apartment, Fox 13 reported.

On 14 June, after a divorce court meeting, Joseph Irby was arrested for domestic aggravated battery after he allegedly ran his wife’s vehicle off the road and hit her car with his own.

Taylor Irby told officers she feared for her life during the incident and had requested restraining orders on her husband in the past. She was granted another temporary restraining order.

The next day, she went to her husband’s apartment, gathered up the firearms and brought them to the Lakeland Police Department.

When asked by an officer if she entered the apartment without her husband’s permission, she said she had. The officer asked her to confirm she had “committed an armed burglary”.

“Yes, but he wasn’t going to turn them in so I am doing it,” she replied, according to the officer.

When police told Joseph Irby his wife had turned in his guns, he asked to press charges.

Taylor Irby GoFundMe
Taylor Irby and her husband Joseph were at a divorce hearing when they had an argument and he then tried to ram her off the road.

Taylor Irby spent six days in the Polk County Jail before being released on 20 June on US$7,000 bond.

Her lawyer said her actions were not theft as she turned the guns in to law enforcement and did not take them for herself.

A judge released Joseph Irby on 15 June on US$10,000 bail with the order not to use, possess or carry any weapons or ammunition.

Both Joseph and Taylor Irby are due in court next month.

A GoFundMe page set up for Taylor Irby’s legal and living expenses had hit US$7261, surpassing the target of US$5000.