Life in Prison for 2016 Stabbing Death in Wilmington

Other defendants face prison time for murder, weapons, and robbery charges

A 50-year-old Wilmington man will spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2016 killing of his girlfriend. Deputy Attorneys General John Downs and Periann Doko secured the plea of Guilty but Mentally Ill to Murder First Degree and Possession of a Deadly Weapon During the Commission of a Felony from Robert Smith. In February 2016, Smith stabbed 45-year-old Inga Young to death with a screwdriver in a relative’s home in the 2300 block of North Tatnall Street. A short time later, Smith, seen driving the victim’s car, led police on a high speed chase on I-95 from Newark to Wilmington, and then through the city until he crashed into a State Police vehicle in the 1500 block of Linden Street. A Superior Court judge will sentence Smith to life in prison without probation or parole for the murder, plus an additional 2 to 25 years on the weapons charge in October.

A 21-year-old Wilmington man will spend the next 35 years in prison in connection with a 2015 murder in the city. Deputy Attorneys General Brian Robertson and Daniel McBride secured the sentence for Taushia Mitchell. In July 2015, Mitchell murdered 29-year-old James Rogers of Wilmington, shooting him in the head in Rogers’s home in the 500 block of West 4th Street. Mitchell was arrested a week later while sitting in the victim’s stolen car in New York City. In June of this year, Mitchell pled guilty to Murder Second Degree and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony. A Superior Court judge sentenced Mitchell to 35 years in prison, followed by 2 years of probation. Wilmington Police Detective Brian Conkey and DOJ paralegal Jaime Prater assisted with the case.

Deputy Attorneys General Erika Flaschner and John Taylor secured a guilty plea to weapons charges for a Wilmington man involved in a shooting earlier this year. Ahmed Ifill, 32, pled guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited and Carrying a Concealed Deadly weapon. In January, Ifill fired shots into a group of people at standing at a memorial in the 300 block of New Castle Avenue, striking one man in the leg. Ifill is a habitual offender based on previous convictions for weapons and robbery charges and faces a minimum mandatory 25 years in prison when sentenced by a Superior Court judge in October.

Deputy Attorney General Kelly Sheridan secured a guilty plea from Michael Watson, 29, of Wilmington, on robbery and weapons charges. In September 2016, Watson, while wearing a disguise, demanded money at knifepoint from the cashier at the Speedy Gas station in the 1200 block of Capitol Trail in Newark. A few days later, Watson, again wearing a disguise and armed with a knife, robbed Westgate Liquors in the 4100 block of Newport Gap Pike in Hockessin. Watson pled guilty to Robbery First Degree, Possession of a Deadly Weapon During the Commission of a Felony, and Robbery Second Degree. Social worker Crystal Pitts and paralegal Julie Caputo assisted on the case. The chief investigating officer was Paul Doherty of Delaware State Police. Watson also pled guilty to Theft of a Firearm related to an incident from June 2016 during which he stole weapons from his father that he later sold. That case was prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Anna Currier. Watson faces at least 5 years in prison when sentenced by a Superior Court judge in October.

A 45-year-old Newark man was sentenced by a Superior Court judge to 15 years in prison for a series of robberies. Deputy Attorney General Christina Kontis prosecuted the case against Leo Watson, with assistance from paralegal Lisa Loikith and social worker Donna Lindsey. In early June 2016, Watson robbed the Exxon gas station in the 5300 block of Concord Pike twice in 2 days, the Dollar Tree in the 2000 block of Philadelphia Pike, and attempted to rob the Valero gas station in the 1300 block of McKennans Church Road. Watson displayed a crow bar during one of the robberies at the Exxon and a BB gun during the Dollar Tree robbery. The Court sentenced Watson to 15 years in prison, followed by 2 years of probation.

Murder, Kidnapping, Child Pornography Lead To Prison Sentences

Also: Middletown man indicted on more than 30 charges in home improvement fraud case

A 26-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for fatally shooting 29-year-old Brandon Ryans in Wilmington in July 2015. Deputy Attorneys General Barzilai Axelrod and Periann Doko secured the sentence for Lamere Wilmer-Williamson, after he pled guilty to Murder in the Second Degree in January. Wilmer-Williamson shot the victim on the corner of South Dupont Street and Lancaster Avenue in Wilmington. Det. Randall Nowell of the Wilmington Police Department led the investigation and was able to obtain area surveillance cameras and cooperating witnesses that helped identify Wilmer-Williamson as the gunman. The defendant was sentenced by a Superior Court judge to 20 years in prison, followed by 6 months of either home confinement or work release, then 2 years of probation.

Deputy Attorney General Christina Kontis secured a prison sentence for 35-year-old Joseph Rudge of Wilmington for Attempted Kidnapping Second Degree, Burglary Third Degree, and Failure to Re-register as a Sex Offender. In July 2016, Rudge grabbed a woman by the neck and held wet rag over her face in the entrance of her apartment building in the 300 block of East Main Street in Newark. The victim was able to free herself and scream for help, causing Rudge to run. While investigating the attempted kidnapping, a police officer saw Rudge rummaging through a car in the parking lot. Rudge was sentenced as a habitual offender in Superior Court on the Attempted Kidnapping charge to 15 years in prison, followed by 6 months of either work release or home confinement then 18 months of probation for the other charges.

A 40-year-old Newark man will spend 8 years in prison as a result of his guilty plea to child pornography charges. Deputy Attorney General Periann Doko secured the sentence for Jason Wood, who pled guilty in December 2016 to 2 counts of Dealing in Child Pornography, and 1 count of Sex Offender Unlawful Sexual Conduct Against a Child. In early 2016, an electronic cloud storage company notified the Delaware Child Predator Task Force that Wood uploaded images containing child pornography to his cloud storage account. Wood was sentenced by a Superior Court judge to 8 years in prison, followed by 6 months of either home confinement or work release, then 5 years of probation. Wood, who was already registered as a Tier 2 sex offender, must now register as a Tier 3 sex offender.

Deputy Attorney General John Taylor secured a guilty plea from a 40-year-old Arthur Torres of Wilmington for drug and weapons charges. Torres, a habitual offender, pled guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited and Drug Possession. In August 2016, officers executing a search warrant at Torres’ home in the 900 block of East 17th Street saw Torres throw a gun from a bedroom window. During the search, police found a loaded .38 caliber revolver as well as drugs and drug paraphernalia. Torres, a habitual offender and prohibited from having a gun because of previous felony convictions, faces a minimum mandatory of 15 years when sentenced in Superior Court later this year.

A New Castle County Grand Jury returned a 34-count indictment against a Middletown man for a series of crimes related to his home improvement business. Mario Mareno, 50, faces 1 count of Racketeering, one count of Crime Against a Vulnerable Adult, 17 counts of Theft, and 15 counts of Home Improvement Fraud. The First State Fugitive Task Force arrested Mareno in May 2016 on four outstanding warrants for Home Improvement Fraud from the Delaware State Police, the New Castle County Police, and the Middletown Police Department. The new indictment consolidated charges against Mareno from Kent and Sussex counties into a single case in New Castle County, and added the Racketeering charge. Mareno posted bail, and was arrested on a fugitive warrant in North Carolina last September. Mareno is being held at the Howard Young Correctional Institution on lack of $171,500 cash bail. Details on Mareno’s 2016 arrest are available at:

Legislators And Law Enforcement Introduce Overhaul Of State’s Criminal Drug Laws

Revised Statute Will Address Complexity, Disparities, Serious Repeat Dealers

A bipartisan group of legislators joined the Delaware Department of Justice Thursday in introducing legislation to address some long-identified issues of complexity and conflict in Delaware’s criminal drug laws, as well as to make the laws more fair and increase penalties for repeatedly convicted drug dealers. If passed, the state’s criminal drug laws will be easier to apply, and potential disparate impacts that the current laws have on residents of the state’s urban areas will be eliminated.

Reducing Complicated Drug Code Factors

Delaware’s existing criminal drug laws impose penalties that are generated by a complicated calculus of five different weight classes, six different “aggravating factors,” and multiple types of “prior qualifying offenses.”

The proposed changes to the drug code will collapse the five weight classes into three, and eliminate several of the aggravating factors, creating a framework that is easier to apply and does not contain a number of internal inconsistencies that exist in the current law.

“Prosecutors and law enforcement officers have been saying for some time that a more straightforward, coherent criminal drug code was needed in order to ensure fair and proportional sentences,” said Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn. “We are grateful for the advice and participation of the law enforcement community in crafting these changes.”

The Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council backs the draft legislation, stating through its Executive Director Jeffrey Horvath “The Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council has reviewed the proposed revisions to the current drug code and is in support of the changes. We feel this is a positive step in simplifying the current drug code.”

Eliminating Disparities

The revised drug code will also eliminate potential disparities in the existing drug laws between city residents and those who live in suburban and rural areas. Currently, the penalties for drug crimes may be aggravated – and minimum mandatory sentences may be triggered – when those crimes occur within 1000 feet of a park or a place of worship. Because churches and parks are heavily concentrated in urban areas, particularly in the City of Wilmington, these aggravating factors can create disproportionate penalties for residents of those areas. The proposed legislation would eliminate proximity to parks and places of worship as aggravating factors.

“The drug laws, as currently written, effectively create a more serious offense of ‘committing a drug crime in the City of Wilmington,’” said Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry, a prime sponsor of the legislation. “This has a disproportionate impact on low-income and minority residents of the city. The passage of this law will eliminate that racial and economic disparity.”

Linwood Jackson, President of the Delaware State NAACP, said “The NAACP supports all efforts that result in smarter, results-based criminal justice policies that keep our communities safe. This effort is designed to achieve judicial equity in sentencing by ending racial disparities at all levels of the criminal justice system.”

Heightened Penalties for The Most Serious Repeat Drug Dealers

The proposed legislation also seeks to impose heightened criminal penalties on major drug dealers who re-offend after being previously convicted of major drug dealing offenses.

“Unlike other provisions in our criminal code, where there are heightened mandatory penalties for serious offenders who are convicted of the same offense over and over, our drug code has no such heightened penalties,” said Representative Larry Mitchell, the prime House sponsor of the bill. “Individuals who commit serious drug dealing offenses for the second, third, or tenth time after being convicted and sentenced for a previous serious dealing offense get the same mandatory sentence as they did for the first offense. Drug dealing remains a serious problem in our communities, and this bill will ensure that the most serious drug dealers who are convicted, serve time, and then go out and start dealing drugs all over again receive an appropriately heightened penalty.”

This new provision addresses a gap that was created by the passage of last year’s habitual offender statute. Under the old habitual offender law, a third major drug dealing offense resulted in a mandatory life sentence. However, all drug offenses were removed from the mandatory sentencing provisions of the habitual offender statute, so as a result there are no heightened mandatory sentences at all under the current code for repeat offenses of the criminal drug laws – only the existing two-year mandatory sentence that exists for the most serious drug dealing offenses.

Providing Uniformity In the Presentation of Evidence in Drug Cases

Finally, the legislation provides certainty for prosecutors in the application of a 2015 Delaware Superior Court opinion that approved of the use of “hypergeometric sampling” in making initial (“prima facie”) determinations in criminal cases as to whether a quantity of drugs seized in a criminal case is, presumptively, all of the same type as a portion that was sampled.

Of the legislation as a whole, which will be released for introduction Thursday, sponsor and House Minority Leader Danny Short said, “These changes will make our drug laws more coherent and streamlined. Once implemented, these prudent modifications will improve the application of criminal justice in Delaware.”

The Delaware State Fraternal Order of Police is also in support of the legislation.

Sponsorship of the two bills that make up the proposal will include Sen. Henry, Rep. Mitchell, Rep. Short, Senate Minority Whip Gregory Lavelle, Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf, Sen. John Walsh, Sen. Bruce Ennis, Rep. Deborah Hudson, Rep. Earl Jaques and Rep. Helene Keeley.

Text of the two bills being introduced is attached.



Delaware Part of 50-State Settlement With Retailer That Targeted Military Service Members

The Delaware Department of Justice Consumer Protection Unit announced a settlement with retailer USA Discounters, also doing business as USA Living and Fletcher’s Jewelers, along with 49 other state attorneys general, to resolve the states’ claims of deceptive trade practices against the company. An estimated $203,000 will be paid to Delawareans who were USA Discounters customers as part of the settlement.

USA Discounters sold consumer products, including furniture, appliances, televisions, computers, smart phones, jewelry and other consumer goods principally on credit. USA Discounters typically marketed to members of the military and veterans, advertising that military, veterans and government employees would never be denied credit for goods purchased from the retailer. USA Discounters closed its stores in the summer of 2015 before later declaring bankruptcy.

The Attorney General offices alleged that USA Discounters engaged in unfair, abusive, false and deceptive acts and practices. These allegations include that, in collecting on consumer debts, USA Discounters engaged in abusive tactics when service members got behind on payments, including contacting service members’ chains-of-command, and causing some service members to lose security clearances and face demotions. The states also alleged that USA Discounters only filed its lawsuits in a few Virginia jurisdictions, no matter the service member’s location, deployment status, or residence. In addition, the states alleged USA Discounters sold overpriced household goods at high interest rates, often using the military allotment system to guarantee payment. These unlawful business practices, the states claim, were secured through misrepresentations and omissions in advertising, during the loan’s origination, and during the collection process.

USA Discounters agreed to provide relief to certain former and current customers. The total estimated value to consumers for these restitution measures is approximately $95.9 million, primarily benefiting active and veteran service members. Namely, USA Discounters agreed to:

  • Write off all accounts with balances for customers whose last contract was dated June 1, 2012 or earlier, and correct the negative comment from the company on those consumers’ credit reports;
  • Apply a $100 credit to all accounts whose contracts were dated after June 1, 2012, which were not discharged in bankruptcy, and correct the negative comment from the company on those consumers’ credit reports;
  • Write off all judgments not obtained in the correct state, and correct the negative comment from the company on those consumers’ credit reports;
  • Credit all judgments that were obtained in the correct state against members of the military with a credit equal to 50 percent of the original judgment amount;
  • Pay a penalty of $40 million to the states should the bankruptcy allow. This $40 million penalty will be subordinated to all secured, administrative, priority, and unsecured claims that are allowed in the bankruptcy case, and it is not expected the company will have the resources to pay this penalty.

The value of the restitution to consumers in Delaware is approximately $203,000. This settlement is expected to impact 75 state residents.

Attempted Murder Conviction Brings 22-Year Prison Sentence

Other defendants face prison time for weapons, assault, burglary and child abuse charges

A 23-year-old man from Bear will spend 22 years in prison after being sentenced in New Castle County Superior Court for a shooting in Wilmington last summer. In July 2015, Shaquille Campbell shot a man in the leg, a short time after the two argued in the 100 block of North Van Buren Street in Wilmington. Campbell was convicted in March 2016 of Attempted Murder, Possession of a Deadly Weapon During the Commission of a Felony, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, and Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon. Deputy Attorneys General Daniel McBride and Rebecca Song prosecuted the case, with Detective Ricardo Flores of Wilmington Police as the chief investigating officer.

Deputy Attorney General Jenna Milecki secured a prison sentence for Datwan Lum, 27, of Middletown. In August 2014, Lum forced his way into the basement window of a home in the 2200 block of Hillside Road in Wilmington, and stole an iPad, computers, and a briefcase. A few days later, Wilmington Police spotted him in the 400 block of East 3rd Street, and as Lum ran from them, he dropped a loaded .38 special revolver. Lum was sentenced to a total of nine years in prison following multiple trials for Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, Resisting Arrest, Burglary Second Degree, two counts of Theft From a Senior, Criminal Mischief, Conspiracy Second Degree, and Receiving Stolen Property. The prison term also includes a Violation of Probation for a 2010 Robbery Second conviction.

Deputy Attorney General Phillip Casale secured a five-year prison sentence for Conway Hayman, 17, of Wilmington. In October 2015, he shot a man in the 100 block of North Franklin Street in Wilmington during a robbery attempt. Hayman pled guilty in May 2016 to Assault First Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Attempted Robbery Second Degree, and Conspiracy Second Degree.

Deputy Attorney General Julie Finocchiaro secured a prison sentence for James Jones, Jr., 33, of Claymont. In December 2015, Jones broke into two units in the Harbor House Apartments in Claymont, stealing money, jewelry, and an AR-15 rifle. In May, he pled guilty to two counts of Burglary Second Degree, Theft of a Firearm, Theft from a Senior, and Resisting Arrest. Jones was sentenced to three years in prison, followed by probation.

Deputy Attorney General Karin Volker secured a plea to Child Abuse Second Degree from John Holliday, 39, of Newark. In March 2016, Holliday hit his then 11-year-old son in the head with the handle of a knife while disciplining the boy by fighting with him. The child suffered cuts and bruises to the face. Holliday also threatened the child with the knife. Holliday faces up to two years in prison when sentenced by the court.

Deputy Attorney General Lindsay Taylor secured a guilty plea from Tyra Mills, 41, of Dover, in connection with a 2014 Kent County investigation which resulted in the arrest and prosecution of 20 people involved in the drug trade in Kent and New Castle Counties, mostly centered in the Capital Park neighborhood of South Dover. Mills pled guilty to four counts of Drug Dealing, and one count of Possession of Illegal Prescription Drugs. Mills will be sentenced in Kent County Superior Court in November.

Deputy Attorney General John Donahue secured a plea to Unlawful Sexual Contact in the First Degree from John King, 67, of Millsboro. His victim was a child under the age of 10. King, a Tier 2 sex offender will be sentenced by the court in October.