DOJ Secures 646 Charges Against Husband, Wife for Serial Child Abuse and Torture

A Kent County couple has been indicted on 646 charges, including more than 80 felonies, for abusing their two children.

Over a period of 20 months, Mary Vinson, 45, and Charles Vinson, 36, are alleged to have abused their children, including making them stand for long periods of time; withholding food; force feeding them; and physically assaulting the victims. Both children, who have since been transferred into the custody of the Division of Family services, were hospitalized several times due to the severity of the abuse, which was caught on video by cameras the parents placed in the children’s room.

“These are the cases that keep us up at night,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “The evidence in this case is disturbing and my prayers are with the victims who, thank God, are somewhere safe. We will seek swift and complete justice against the accused; nothing matters more than protecting our kids.”

The charges against both defendants are as follows:

Charles Vinson:

  • 6 counts of Child Abuse 1st Degree, a Class B Felony
  • 12 counts of Conspiracy 2nd Degree, a Class G Felony
  • 9 counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a Class G Felony
  • 2 counts of Reckless Endangering 2nd Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor
  • 2 counts of Conspiracy 3rd Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor
  • 2 counts of Kidnapping 1st Degree, a Class B Felony
  • 2 counts of Act of Intimidation, a Class D Felony
  • 3 counts of Menacing, an Unclassified Misdemeanor
  • 3 counts of Child Abuse 3rd Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor
  • 3 counts of Endangering the Welfare, a Class A Misdemeanor
  • 2 counts of False Statement, a Class G Felony

Mary Vinson:

  • 7 counts of Child Abuse 1st Degree, a Class B Felony
  • 12 counts of Conspiracy 2nd Degree, a Class G Felony
  • 2 counts of Conspiracy 3rd Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor
  • 4 counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a Class G Felony
  • 6 counts of Menacing, an Unclassified Misdemeanor
  • 71 counts of Reckless Endangering 2nd Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor
  • 2 counts of Kidnapping 1st Degree, a Class B Felony
  • 225 counts of Child Abuse 3rd Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor
  • 3 counts of Reckless Endangering 1st Degree, a Class E Felony
  • 11 counts of Attempted Child Abuse 1st Degree, a Class B Felony
  • 7 counts of Strangulation, a Class E Felony
  • 1 count of Attempted Strangulation, a Class E Felony
  • 244 counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a Class A Misdemeanor
  • 2 counts of Act of Intimidation, a Class D Felony
  • 3 counts of False Statement, a Class G Felony

If convicted on all charges, Mary Vinson faces a minimum sentence of 40 years and a maximum sentence of more than 1,150 years; Charles Vinson would face a minimum sentence of 16 years and a maximum sentence of more than 270 years.

Deputy Attorneys General Kitty Dickerson and Erik Towne of the DOJ’s Special Victims Unit secured the indictment with support from DOJ Investigator Pete Fraley and Paralegal Nicole Rollins. The investigation was led by detectives from the Troop 3 Major Crimes Unit of Delaware State Police.


Two Wilmington Gang Members Sentenced for Murders, Gun Charges

Two defendants affiliated with the Wilmington-area gang MGS have been sentenced to a collective 61 years in prison in connection with multiple shootings, including three murders. Both defendants were identified and arrested as a result of a years-long investigation into MGS, a violent gang at the center of nearly 200 criminal charges involving 19 defendants and multiple shootings.

“These sentences represent a significant step toward justice for the victims and families hurt by violent gangs like MGS and NorthPak,” said Attorney General Jennings. “We are here because of the tremendous work of Wilmington PD, our task force partners, and our prosecutors, all of whom were relentless in the face of the significant challenges inherent to these investigations. Because of their work, two dangerous criminals are now behind bars. We will remain relentless in the fight against gun violence.”

“This outcome reflects the tireless efforts of our investigators and partners to deliver justice on behalf of the murder and shooting victims who were targeted by these dangerous offenders, and the many more Wilmingtonians who were affected by the violence they are responsible for,” said Chief Robert J. Tracy. “While we will remain relentless in our efforts to identify and apprehend those responsible for violent crime in our community, we also hope these sentences will drive home a strong message that gun crime will not be tolerated in our neighborhoods.”

Davon Walker, 22, will serve 53 years in prison, followed by probation, after pleading guilty to Murder 2nd Degree (three counts), Gang Participation, and Conspiracy 1st Degree. Walker, a member of the MGS affiliate gang Keyzdrive, was indicted in connection with violent crimes, several of which stemmed from a bloody feud with rival gangs. Investigators connected Walker to multiple violent offenses including the September 2019 murder of Naithan Grzybowski on East 35th Street; the October 2020 murder of Tommier Dendy on East 10th Street; and the October 2020 murder of Eddie Green on North Heald Street.  Detectives developed Walker as a suspect through multiple streams of evidence, including surveillance footage, Walker’s Instagram activity, and ballistics analysis that linked two weapons in Walkers’ possession with the Dendy and Green murders.

In a separate case, Pierre Carter-Bailey, 21, was sentenced to 8 years in prison, followed by probation, for Assault 1st Degree, Gang Participation, and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony. Carter-Bailey, also affiliated with MGS, was indicted in connection with a 2019 gang-related shooting. On the evening of April 7, 2019, six people were shot and injured near the intersection of 10th Street and Pine Street in Wilmington. Nearby surveillance footage captured the aftermath of the shooting. Law enforcement eventually identified Carter-Bailey over the course of a lengthy investigation. Carter pleaded guilty in March to Gang Participation, Assault 1st Degree, and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony.

Deputy Attorneys General Jamie McCloskey, Erika Flaschner, and A.J. Hill secured these sentences with the assistance of DOJ Criminal Analyst Daniel Masi, Paralegals Julia Bacon and Sarah Molaski, and Social Worker Crystal Pitts, following an investigation led by Detectives Devon Jones, Justin Kane, Mackenzie Kirlin, Brian Conkey and Sergeant Matthew Reiss of the Wilmington Police Department.

 


Wilmington Man Sentenced in Revenge Murder Case

A Wilmington man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for a 2018 murder. On August 26, Elgin Wilson, 20, pleaded guilty to Murder 2nd Degree and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, suspended after 20 years for descending levels of probation. Wilson also pleaded guilty to Conspiracy 2nd Degree and was sentenced separately to two years in prison, suspended for probation.

Wilson, 20, was arrested following an investigation into the brutal murder of Shirley Coleman near 10th and North Spruce Street in Wilmington. Investigators determined that Wilson targeted Coleman as an act of retaliation against her son, Antonio Russell, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2019 for the murder of Wilson’s brother, Jamiere Harris.

“This case is a tragic reminder of the all-too-common vicious cycle of violence begetting violence,” said Attorney General Kathleen Jennings. “Two lives were taken, including an innocent mother of five, to say nothing of the countless others – friends, family, neighbors – who have been traumatized by these killings. This violence is as senseless as it is heartbreaking, and we will not tolerate it. I am grateful to the prosecutors and the Wilmington police who worked diligently to bring this killer to justice, and am holding the victim’s family in my heart.”

“This sentencing reflects the results of a rigorous investigation on the part of our Criminal Investigations Division, and our unyielding commitment to deliver justice on behalf of victims of crime,” said Chief Robert J. Tracy. “I appreciate the efforts of our investigators and the Delaware Department of Justice, and hope this sentencing brings some measure of comfort to the family of Shirley Coleman.”

This sentence was secured by Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Hurlock and former Deputy Attorney General Martin O’Connor, with the assistance of DOJ Paralegal Jaime Prater and DOJ Social Worker Lisa Rapko,  following an investigation led by Detective Devon Jones of the Wilmington Police Department.


AG Jennings Announces $438.5 Million Multistate Agreement with JUUL Labs

Attorney General Jennings announced today a $438.5 million agreement in principle between JUUL Labs and 34 states and territories resolving a two-year bipartisan investigation into the e-cigarette manufacturer’s marketing and sales practices. In addition to the financial terms, the settlement would force JUUL to comply with a series of strict injunctive terms severely limiting their marketing and sales practices.

Delaware stands to recover between $7.8 million and $8.5 million under the agreement.

“Our greatest responsibility is to our children,” said Attorney General Jennings. “Delaware and our sister states have spent decades educating kids and adults alike on the dangers of smoking. JUUL’s conduct contributed to a troubling backslide in that work. That has been illustrated by an explosion of e-cigarette use by teenagers who, for the first time in a generation, are seeing more ads for nicotine, not fewer—to say nothing of misleading claims about these products’ safety. I’m hopeful that this settlement and the business changes it requires from JUUL will help bring us back on track, and I’m grateful to the entire team that participated in this investigation and helped negotiate this settlement on behalf of the states.”

JUUL was, until recently, the dominant player in the vaping market. The multistate investigation revealed that JUUL rose to this position by willfully engaging in an advertising campaign that appealed to youth, even though its e-cigarettes are both illegal for them to purchase and are unhealthy for youth to use. The investigation found that JUUL relentlessly marketed to underage users with launch parties, advertisements using young and trendy-looking models, social media posts and free samples. It marketed a technology-focused, sleek design that could be easily concealed and sold its product in flavors known to be attractive to underage users. JUUL also manipulated the chemical composition of its product to make the vapor less harsh on the throats of the young and inexperienced users. To preserve its young customer base, JUUL relied on age verification techniques that it knew were ineffective.

The investigation further revealed that JUUL’s original packaging was misleading in that it did not clearly disclose that it contained nicotine and implied that it contained a lower concentration of nicotine than it actually did.  Consumers were also misled to believe that consuming one JUUL pod was the equivalent of smoking one pack of combustible cigarettes. The company also misrepresented that its product was a smoking cessation device without FDA approval to make such claims.

The states are in the process of finalizing and executing the settlement documents, a process that takes approximately 3-4 weeks. The $438.5 million would be paid out over a period of six to ten years, with the amounts paid increasing the longer the company takes to make the payments. If JUUL chooses to extend the payment period up to ten years, the final settlement would reach $476.6 million. Both the financial and injunctive terms exceed any prior agreement JUUL has reached with states to date.

As part of the settlement, JUUL has agreed to refrain from:

  • Youth marketing
  • Funding education programs
  • Depicting persons under age 35 in any marketing
  • Use of cartoons
  • Paid product placement
  • Sale of brand name merchandise
  • Sale of flavors not approved by FDA
  • Allowing access to websites without age verification on landing page
  • Representations about nicotine not approved by FDA
  • Misleading representations about nicotine content
  • Sponsorships/naming rights
  • Advertising in outlets unless 85 percent audience is adult
  • Advertising on billboards
  • Public transportation advertising
  • Social media advertising (other than testimonials by individuals over the age of 35, with no health claims)
  • Use of paid influencers
  • Direct-to-consumer ads unless age-verified, and
  • Free samples

The agreement also includes sales and distribution restrictions, including where the product may be displayed/accessed in stores, online sales limits, retail sales limits, age verification on all sales, and a retail compliance check protocol.


Jennings, DSP Announce Trooper Plea In Computer System Misuse Case

A Delaware State Trooper has pleaded guilty to Misuse of Computer System Information, Attorney General Kathy Jennings and Col. Melissa Zebley announced Friday.  The case was prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust after Delaware State Police supervisors discovered and reported Boyda’s conduct.

James D. Boyda, a five-year veteran of the Delaware State Police, illegally disclosed protected information from NLETS, a criminal justice computer system that allows police access to New Jersey DMV records, after being misled by an associate.

Dennis Terry, an acquaintance of Boyda’s and a New Jersey resident, contacted Boyda in early March describing a vehicle that he was “having problems” with and asking Boyda to run the vehicle’s plates. Boyda responded that he would look into it. In actuality, and unbeknownst to Boyda, the vehicle was not harassing Terry but was parked in his ex-girlfriend’s driveway. Following a second request, Boyda provided Terry with the results of an NLETS inquiry, including the vehicle owner’s name and address. Terry subsequently used this information to harass his ex-girlfriend, who secured a restraining order against him; Terry currently faces criminal charges in New Jersey.

“It’s unsettling to think how easily this situation could have become worse,” said Attorney General Jennings. “I am not without empathy for the Defendant, whom the investigation made clear was misled by someone he believed to be his friend; but his lack of malice does not change the fact that his actions enabled the harassment of an innocent woman. Law enforcement and other criminal justice personnel undergo extensive training, including confidentiality requirements, before they are authorized to use systems like NLETS; this case should be a reminder why.”

“The Delaware State Police values our relationship with the public and as demonstrated in this case, has supervision, policies, and procedures in place to ensure the accountability of our members. We will continue to provide professional, competent, and compassionate law enforcement services to our communities,” said Delaware State Police Superintendent Colonel Melissa Zebley.

Boyda’s plea agreement commits him to an immediate six-month probation period in lieu of a suspended 12-month prison sentence, in addition to suspension of access to criminal justice data. His probation is dischargeable following completion of all requisite security and acceptable use trainings and appropriate re-certification on law enforcement computer systems.