AG Jennings Unveils AG’s Abortion Legal Helpline  

Public-private-nonprofit initiative will provide free legal advice & information on reproductive health  

Joined by reproductive health advocates, Attorney General Jennings announced Wednesday the launch of the Attorney General’s Abortion Legal Helpline, a collaborative initiative led by the Department of Justice with support from nearly a dozen partner law firms, and several nonprofit and advocacy groups including the ACLU of Delaware, Planned Parenthood of Delaware, the First State Abortion Fund, Delaware NOW (National Organization for Women), Black Mothers in Power, the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice, and Women’s March Sussex. 

The Helpline will provide free legal advice to anyone in need of guidance after the Supreme Court’s June Dobbs decision, including: “know your rights” guidance and referrals to Delawareans seeking abortions; patients seeking to travel to Delaware to obtain an abortion; people and organizations providing support to these patients; and healthcare providers.   

“Abortion is legal in Delaware, but millions of women in our sister states face legal and medical peril because of their states’ draconian abortion laws,” said Attorney General Jennings. “Our Abortion Legal Helpline is 100% free, completely confidential, and ready to help anyone — be they residents of our state, visitors, or providers.  I am grateful to the attorneys from our world-class legal community – both in the DOJ and in the private sector – and to our friends in the nonprofit and advocacy community who are helping so many in this time of need.”  

The AG’s Abortion Legal Helpline can be reached at (302) 992-8096 or toll-free at (877) 312-2366. In order to ensure anonymity, callers will be asked to leave a message with their question, a callback number, and any instructions on when or how they prefer to be contacted.  Those who prefer not to call may also submit written questions online at de.gov/abortionhelpline 

The Helpline’s cost-free team of lawyers is managed through the Department of Justice, and intake for questions and referrals will be jointly administered by the Department of Justice and the ACLU of Delaware.  Legal questions will be answered on a pro bono basis by attorneys in partner law firms, while service and support referrals will be referred to partner nonprofits including Planned Parenthood of Delaware and the First State Abortion Fund.   

“Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s unprecedented and dangerous decision to overturn nearly five decades of court precedents, many people across the nation have wondered what the legal status of abortion is.,” said Mike Brickner, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware. “Today, we deliver a simple message for Delawareans and anyone who may come to Delaware seeking abortion care: abortion is legal here and the legal community has your back. The ACLU of Delaware is proud to support the Attorney General’s Abortion Legal Helpline as the latest step in the effort to fortify abortion access in our state. We look forward to connecting the people who seek abortion care and providers with pro bono lawyers who are dedicated to assisting them.” 

“Planned Parenthood of Delaware is grateful to the Department of Justice and the numerous private attorneys who have offered their assistance,” said Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, president of Planned Parenthood of Delaware. “As states attack reproductive rights like never before, offering protections and resources for patients and providers is more important than ever. This initiative should help both answer questions pertaining to providing and accessing care and ensure that those in need are able to obtain an abortion. People deserve the right to receive medical services without fear of official reprisal.”  

“This new service being provided by the Delaware Department of Justice is a critical and timely one,” said Sarah Stowens, board president of the First State Abortion Fund. “Our organization knows that providing funding is just one piece of the puzzle. We look forward to working with the DOJ and other advocates to not just fund abortions, but to provide legal guidance and logistical support for anyone seeking reproductive health services in the First State.” 

“On the day Roe was overturned, Attorney General Jennings reached out to Delaware NOW and other key reproductive justice advocates to set up a time to meet and discuss how the DOJ could best respond to this crisis,” said Melissa Froemming, president of Delaware NOW (National Organization for Women). “She asked for our input regarding what her office could do – and then she took that input and made sure to act upon it with urgency. On behalf of Delaware’s women and birthing people, we thank the AG for prioritizing a swift and impactful response, and for meaningfully including each of us as partners in this process. Today, the AG’s Abortion Legal Helpline has been established and is being launched. We thank the Attorney General and her staff for consistently and actively defending the right to abortion as basic health care in Delaware – including fighting local efforts to limit abortion access, ensuring patients and providers are armed with reliable, accessible information, and providing access to legal resources to patients coming here from out of state and to the providers that serve them.” 

The Helpline will also develop legal resources for patients, providers, and supporters; provide guidance on organizational policies to support access to reproductive healthcare; research and advise on organizational policies in order to support access to reproductive healthcare; and participate in litigation and other efforts to protect and improve access to reproductive healthcare.  

Abortion is legal in Delaware and abortion rights have been codified under Delaware law since 2017. Recently, Delaware’s General Assembly passed additional legislation expanding abortion access for Delawareans and visitors to our state, including laws protecting providers of abortions and out of state residents seeking or receiving pregnancy termination in Delaware by limiting extradition; protecting medical records; shielding patients from civil actions in other states; and expanding the State’s capacity to provide access to abortion and abortion medication.  

More information on the AG’s Abortion Legal Helpline, Delawareans’ reproductive rights, and abortion resources is available at de.gov/abortionhelpline. Delawareans seeking financial support for reproductive care may contact the First State Abortion Fund at (302) 491-9429 or visit www.firststateabortionfund.org. Information on obtaining abortion medication is available at www.plancpills.org. A national list of abortion providers is available at www.abortionfinder.org or www.ineedana.org.


AG Jennings Applauds CJC Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Policy Changes

Attorney General Kathy Jennings applauded several policy changes implemented by the Criminal Justice Council as part of its ongoing efforts to strengthen rights for survivors of sexual assault. The new policies establish timelines for the collection, documentation, processing and investigation of assault evidence “kits.” This policy is a result of funding received from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, through the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) program. 

The policy, based on input from law enforcement, the DOJ, and the Division of Forensic Science (DFS) and best practices and model legislation nationwide, details standards and processes for healthcare facilities, law enforcement agencies, DFS, law enforcement-based victim advocacy services, and the Department of Justice to help prevent future sexual assault kit backlogs from forming in Delaware. The new policy also serves to inform survivors about what to expect from state institutions, in addition to the existing Delaware Victim’s Bill of Rights.  

 “I’m grateful for the Criminal Justice council’s tireless work processing Delaware’s rape kit backlog,” said Attorney General Jennings. “These changes  — and the work of our partners in law enforcement, healthcare facilities and the Division of Forensic Science — will aid the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault, help prevent future backlogs, and speed the wheels of justice for survivors.” 

 The policy’s key stipulations include: 

  • Unless the victim elects not to have their kit tested, a law enforcement agency shall take possession of a sexual assault kit within 5 days of notification by the collecting facility;  
  • Contact DFS as soon as possible to schedule a consultation to discuss the evidence collected and what will be tested;  
  • Engage the victim and schedule an interview as needed, while law enforcement agency based Victim Services connects the victim with appropriate resources, consistent with the victim-centered approach outlined in the Delaware SAKI Policy Manual;  
  • Document sexual assault kit related fields in LEISS;  
  • Submit all sexual assault kits collected from the collecting agency to DFS within 30 days; and  
  • Preserve sexual assault kits associated with uncharged or unsolved crimes indefinitely. 

 Delaware received initial SAKI funding in 2015 and in 2018, resulting in the inventory and testing of 1,235 untested sexual assault kits. This effort has resulted in 9 arrests, clearing 24 cases, with active investigations ongoing and arrests forthcoming. Additional details about Delaware’s SAKI project can be found on a designated Delaware Criminal Justice Council webpage: https://cjc.delaware.gov/sexual-assault-kit-initiative-saki/ 

 Survivors with questions about their kit status or investigative outcome should reach out to the investigating law enforcement agency or call the Delaware Victim Center at 800-VICTIM-1 (800-842-8461). 


Attorney General Jennings Announces Formation of Nationwide Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force

Attorney General Kathy Jennings today announced that Delaware is joining a nationwide Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force of 50 attorneys general to investigate and take legal action against the telecommunications companies responsible for bringing a majority of foreign robocalls into the United States. This bipartisan nationwide Task Force has one goal: to cut down on illegal robocalls.

“Robocalls are a nationwide problem that Delawareans — including me — deal with every day,” said Attorney General Jennings. “The nature of these scams makes it nigh-impossible for any one state to singlehandedly stop robocalls; but this task force combines our resources and focuses them on the bad actors in the telecom industry who enable this scourge. We will take this fight to anyone who helps these scammers and robocallers.”

The Task Force has issued 20 civil investigative demands to 20 gateway providers and other entities that are allegedly responsible for a majority of foreign robocall traffic. Gateway providers that bring foreign traffic into the U.S. telephone network have a responsibility to ensure the traffic is legal, but these providers are not taking sufficient action to stop robocall traffic. In many cases, they appear to be intentionally turning a blind eye in return for steady revenue. The Task Force will focus on the bad actors throughout the telecommunications industry, to help reduce the number of robocalls that consumers receive and benefit the companies that are following the rules.

Attorney General Jennings is committed to stopping illegal and unwanted calls. According to the National Consumer Law Center and Electronic Privacy Information Center, over 33 million scam robocalls are made to Americans every day. These scam calls include Social Security Administration fraud against seniors, Amazon scams against consumers, and many other scams targeting all consumers, including some of our most vulnerable citizens. An estimated $29.8 billion dollars was stolen through scam calls in 2021. Most of this scam robocall traffic originates overseas. The Task Force is focused on shutting down the providers that profit from this illegal scam traffic and refuse to take steps to otherwise mitigate these scam calls.

Attorney General Jennings offers the following tips to avoid scams and unwanted calls:

  • Be wary of callers who specifically ask you to pay by gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency. For example, the Internal Revenue Service does not accept iTunes gift cards.
  • Look out for prerecorded calls from imposters posing as government agencies. Typically, the Social Security Administration does not make phone calls to individuals.
  • If you suspect fraudulent activity, immediately hang-up and do not provide any personal information.
  • Contact the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 220-5424 or e-mail consumer.protection@delaware.gov


AG Jennings Announces Major Settlement With Former Top Mortgage Lender Over Allegations Of Redlining

Deal commits Trident Mortgage to pay for mortgage subsidies in minority neighborhoods, spurring hundreds of millions in lending

Attorney General Jennings today announced a $20 million settlement with former top home mortgage lender, Trident Mortgage Company, to resolve allegations of “redlining” in the greater Philadelphia region, including New Castle County. The deal requires Trident to provide individual subsidies of up to $10,000 in support of new mortgages for owner-occupied homes in majority-minority neighborhoods to qualified applicants.

“Redlining is one of the modern era’s most damaging and insidious forms of racism,” said Attorney General Jennings. “Few practices have done more to enforce de facto segregation in our communities, and the legacy of that segregation — yawning racial disparities in wealth, inter-generational poverty, public services funded in whole or part by property taxes, and opportunity as a whole — has caused unspeakable harm. I’m grateful for the work of our staff and our partners who took on this fight and who have secured crucial assistance for the communities impacted by redlining.”

The settlement is part of a global resolution. Attorney General Jennings was part of a multistate coalition with the Attorneys General of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in partnership with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice. The settlements with the states are in the form of Assurances of Voluntary Compliance, with Delaware’s linked here. The federal agencies entered into a Consent Order with Trident, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Trident was one of the region’s top mortgage lenders until it ceased its mortgage lending business in December 2020. The company will continue operations to implement the settlement over its five-year term. In addition, the agreement requires Trident’s former real estate affiliate, Fox & Roach, LP, to assist Trident in facilitating increased access to residential mortgages. A parent of both companies, HomeServices of America, Inc., has guaranteed implementation. Delawareans living in a majority minority tract who are seeking information on the settlement or eligibility to participate in the loan subsidy program may contact the DOJ’s Consumer Mediation Unit at (800) 220-5424 for assistance.

Based on the investigation, the states allege that, in the greater Philadelphia region, including New Castle County:

  • Trident engaged in redlining, meaning it avoided providing credit serves in majority-minority census tracts because of the race of the people who live there, and related acts and practices; and
  • Fox & Roach and Trident shared a close business relationship, including some co-located offices, which contributed to Fox & Roach customers making up a large majority of Trident’s mortgage lending business.

Because Trident is no longer making loans, it will work with another lender, yet to be named, to disburse the subsidy funds to qualified applicants who apply for home mortgages in majority-minority neighborhoods. Applicants generally must also meet the lender’s underwriting standards.

Trident will be guided by an assessment of the credit needs of the region’s majority-minority neighborhoods that will be conducted in the coming months. Trident may use the fund to subsidize mortgages with reduced interest rates, down payment assistance, closing cost assistance, payment of the initial mortgage insurance premium, and possibly other means with approval.

The agreement also includes a commitment to nondiscrimination, outreach and equally attentive customer service to residents of the region’s majority-minority neighborhoods, anti-bias training, consumer financial education, and community development partnerships.

“Redlining” is a term that goes back decades and refers to a practice – originally sanctioned in the 1930s by the federal government – by which banks and mortgage lenders systematically underserve and discriminate against neighborhoods with high percentages of marginalized racial and ethnic minorities. The practice deprives such areas and their residents of adequate credit. The lack of competition also makes residents of redlined neighborhoods vulnerable to unscrupulous, predatory lending. Historic redlining and underinvestment in majority-minority neighborhoods correlate with troubling patterns of poverty, blight, and violence.

DOJ’s Director of Impact Litigation Christian Douglas Wright and Assistant Attorney General Deepinder K. Goraya led this matter for Delaware. There has been no finding or adjudication by any court, and the companies deny any wrongdoing.

 


William Ushler indicted for Child Pornography, Sexual Solicitation of a Child

Ex-Tower Hill employee faces seven felonies; no Delaware children or THS students among known victims

A Wilmington man and former Tower Hill School employee arrested in April has been indicted on charges arising from a child pornography investigation.

William Ushler, 53, was arrested and charged on April 19 by members of the Department of Justice and Delaware State Police assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. At that time, Ushler was charged with five counts of Dealing in Child Pornography, a felony. On Monday, July 25, Ushler was indicted by a New Castle County grand jury on the original five charges, plus an additional two counts of Sexual Solicitation of a Child, also a felony.

During the post-arrest forensic examination of seized devices, detectives discovered communication between Ushler and another subject, who purported to be a juvenile. Ushler asked that subject to provide visual depictions of the subject engaged in prohibited sexual acts. The purported juvenile was located outside the State of Delaware, and the State has no information to support that Ushler had any similar communications with children from Delaware, or children associated with the Tower Hill School.

“Nothing matters more than protecting our kids,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “The facts of this case are extremely disturbing, and I am grateful for the work that our prosecutors and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force do each day to stop these kinds of predators. We implore anyone with information related to this matter to contact the Child Predator Task Force at (302) 739-2030.”

DOJ and DSP are asking for anyone who may have been a victim or has information about this case to contact the Child Predator Task Force at (302) 739-2030.