Violent Felony Convictions Lead to Prison Sentences

Prosecutors within the Delaware Department of Justice had several significant successes recently, which will lead to prison sentences for several defendants.

A Wilmington man is facing prison for a December 2014 shooting death in the 700 block of Vandever Street in the city. Deputy Attorneys General Jan van Amerongen and Matthew Frawley secured a plea to Manslaughter and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony from 21-year-old Marvin Swanson. The State will recommend a 10-year prison sentence. Derrick Caudle, 43, of Middletown began arguing with Swanson about a previous drug transaction between the two, leading Caudle to punch Swanson in the face. After stumbling backward, Swanson pulled a gun and shot Caudle once in the abdomen. Sentencing is scheduled for June.

Deputy Attorney General Casey Ewart secured a plea to two counts of Assault 2nd and one count of Reckless Endangering 1st from Juan Shirey, Jr., 22, of Lincoln. In August 2015, Shirey attempted to hand a loaded and cocked handgun to his mother, who was leaning out of a second story window in the 21-thousand block of West Mahew Drive in Lincoln. The gun fired, and two people, including a 2- year-old, were struck by the bullet. Shirey was sentenced to one year in prison, followed by six months home confinement, then two years of Level III probation.

Deputy Attorney General John Taylor convicted habitual offender Jai Albert, 43, of Wilmington of Possession of a Firearm By A Person Prohibited, and Tier 4 Drug Dealing. In March 2015, police executed a search warrant at a business owned by Albert in the unit block of East Lea Boulevard in Wilmington. Inside the drop ceiling of a storage room, police found a loaded .45 caliber hand gun, along with 2,307 plastic bags of heroin. Police also seized more than 4,000 additional bags of heroin at a second location tied to Albert. Judge Charles Butler sentenced Albert to the minimum mandatory 17 years in prison, followed by 6 months at Level IV, followed by 1 year of Level III probation.

Deputy Attorney General Kelly Breen secured a prison sentence for 49-year old Kevin Mclaughlin of Newark for his 9th DUI. In May 2015, Mclaughlin was stopped for driving 70 mph in a 45 mph zone along the Kirkwood Highway near Newark. He was also charged with Driving With a Revoked/Suspended License. Mclaughlin was sentenced to four years in prison, followed by Level IV Crest program, then one year of Level III probation. Mclaughlin must undergo drug and alcohol treatment and will lose his driver’s license for five years.

Deputy Attorney General Abigail Layton of the DOJ Child Predator Unit had defendant Melvin Janvier, III, 28, of Newark, sentenced to four years in prison followed by probation. Janvier pled guilty to one count of Possession and one count of Dealing in Child Pornography in January 2016. An undercover investigation discovered Janvier uploaded images of child pornography to his online social media Kik account. Janvier was also ordered to register as a Tier 2 sex offender.

Prosecutors Secure Convictions for Violent Felonies Leading to Significant Prison Sentences for Defendants

Deputy Attorneys General within the Delaware Department of Justice had several significant successes recently, including convictions that will lead to significant prison sentences for defendants.

Anthony Abbatiello, 36, of Wilmington, will spend at least 38 years in prison, after being found guilty of several charges by a Superior Court jury. Deputy Attorneys General Julie Finocchiaro and Kelly Breen secured the convictions. In May 2015, Abbatiello went into a room at the Fairview Inn, located at 1051 S. Market Street in Wilmington, and robbed a woman of her purse at gunpoint. While running from the room, Abbatiello fired multiple shots from a handgun at someone trying to stop him from getting away. Abbatiello was convicted of Attempted First Degree Assault, Home Invasion, First Degree Robbery, Reckless Endangering, four counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, Possession of Ammunition by a Person Prohibited, and several traffic violations. Abbatiello will be sentenced in June.

Deputy Attorneys General Phillip Casale and Mark Denney convicted Lamar Wright-Clayton, 38, of New Castle, in a jury trial. In September 2015, police stopped a car driven by Wright-Clayton in the 2400 block of North Jessup Street in Wilmington for equipment violations. During the stop, police found Wright-Clayton had a loaded semi-automatic handgun in his pocket. Jurors found Wright-Clayton guilty of Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, Possession of Ammunition by a Person Prohibited, Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, and Driving with a Suspended License. Wright-Clayton faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 23 years as a habitual offender when sentenced in June.

Deputy Attorney General Casey Ewart secured a plea from Andrew Moore, 32, of Laurel for Burglary 2nd, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, and Theft of a Firearm. In November 2014, Moore broke into a home on Revel Road in Millsboro, and stole guns, televisions, and jewelry. He also broke into the home’s shed and stole a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle. The firearm possession charge carries a 10-year minimum mandatory, and the theft conviction, which carries a one-year minimum, will classify Moore as a habitual offender under Delaware Code Title 11 § 4214 (a). He faces 11 years to life in prison at sentencing in May.

Deputy Attorney General Jason Cohee secured a manslaughter plea from 21-year-old Shaquille Bolden of Dover. Bolden was charged with the July 2014 murder of 20-year-old Rashaad Lewis during a fight involving about 20 people in the unit block of South New Street in Dover. Police arriving to stop the fight found Lewis on the ground with stab wounds. Bolden will be sentenced in May.

Twenty-year-old Shamar Walker of Milton will spend 10 years in prison for the death of his two-month-old son in April 2014. Deputy Attorneys General Melanie Withers and Casey Ewart secured a sentence of 20 years, suspended after 10 for 5 years at Level IV, suspended after 6 months for 2 years at Level II probation. The child died as the result of abusive head trauma while in his father’s care.

Child Predator Task Force Investigation Leads to Arrest

An undercover investigation by the Delaware Child Predator Task Force into the solicitation of a minor for the purpose of engaging in prohibited sex acts, resulted in the arrest of 35-year-old Joshua Rutherford of Camden-Wyoming.

In mid-February, investigators say Rutherford began a chat conversation with an undercover investigator he believed was the father of a teenage girl on an online social media network. During these chat conversations, investigators say Rutherford expressed his interest in meeting the girl for sex, and also requested nude images.

On March 10, 2016, Rutherford arranged to meet the investigator at a park in Dover the next day, according to the task force. On Friday, March 11, 2016, the Delaware Child Predator Task Force, assisted by the Delaware State Police SORT team (Special Operations Response Team) arrested Rutherford. He was charged with one count of Sexual Solicitation of a child under 18 to engage in prohibited Sexual Act, and one count of Attempted Dealing in Child Pornography.

Search warrants were executed at Rutherford’s residence and on the vehicle that he was operating. As a result of the two search warrants, detectives seized a laptop computer, an external hard drive, numerous USB thumb drives and other related evidence. Additional charges will be based upon that examination.

At the time of his arrest, Rutherford was employed as a teacher at Smyrna High School, and members of the Child Predator Task Force ask anyone with information or concerns about Rutherford to call 302-739-2030.

Rutherford was arraigned by Justice of the Peace Court 2 and ordered held at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center on a $50,000.00 secured bail.

In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Contractor Arrested for Defrauding Senior Citizen

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit announced a Delaware City-based contractor faces criminal charges for defrauding a 72-year-old New Castle County homeowner. James Small, 31, was arrested on one count of Home Improvement Fraud, but Department of Justice officials believe he may have more victims.

New Castle County Police received a complaint from a woman believing she was caught in a home improvement scheme. Throughout January 2016, the alleged victim paid Small over $17,000 for home improvements. Work performed included minor spackling and tearing up master bedroom flooring, but ultimately police and CPU believe Small stopped showing up at the work site and the work was never substantially completed.

The investigation revealed that Small, soliciting work by going door-to-door, convinced the victim to pay him $500 up-front. The victim subsequently provided him checks for $1000, $500, $1000, $12,500, and $2,500 over the course of January 2016. At one point, Small accompanied the alleged victim to her bank in order to make a large cash withdraw.

“Delawareans, especially our senior citizens, need to be alert to home improvement scams, and help avoid them by making sure that contractors are bonded and maintain any required licenses for mechanical work,” said Attorney General Matt Denn.  “It’s also important to follow up on references, talk to friends and neighbors about a contractor’s reputation, and never pay for work up front.”

Additional alleged victims have been identified by the Consumer Protection Unit, and the office urges other consumers, who between 2012 and the present, may have been victimized by Small or have information to share with authorities, to contact Special Investigator Robert Schreiber in the Consumer Protection Unit at (302) 577-5183.

If any consumer suspects they are a home improvement fraud victim, they should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline at 1-800-220-5424.

New Legislation Seeks to Reduce Bullying, Keep Students Out of Criminal Justice System

New legislation authored by Attorney General Matt Denn, along with Senators Margaret Rose Henry and Brian Pettyjohn, and Representatives Charles Potter and Mike Ramone, will help reduce the number of children injected into the criminal justice system, while improving the state’s ability to deal with school bullying incidents. Senate Bill 207, introduced yesterday with bi-partisan support, contains two important provisions:

*          First, it will eliminate the obligation that schools currently have to report to the police all fights between students that result in a non-serious injury. Schools, students, and students’ parents will still be permitted to report these incidents to the police if they choose to do so.   Schools will still be required to report these incidents to the Department of Education.  But they will not be compelled to involve the criminal justice system.

*          Second, it will require schools to inform parents of students who are victims of bullying of the availability of the Attorney General’s Office to intervene in their child’s case if the case is not being addressed satisfactorily by their school.

“Last year, 130 students in our public schools were sent to the police for getting into school fights with other students that did not result in serious injuries,” said Attorney General Matt Denn. “The schools had no choice under current law but to involve the police. Some of those students probably should have been dealt with by the police, but some should not. Schools and parents should be able to use their common sense about which school fights are criminal matters and which should be dealt with by the school. The criminal justice system is not a good place for kids, and while sometimes it is necessary, we should be thoughtful about when we use it.”

“School bullying is a serious problem that can have devastating long-term effects if not dealt with swiftly. But it can also represent a teachable moment that allows for early intervention and correction by educators and parents before such incidents become criminal in nature,” said Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The more incidents we’re able to resolve early and administratively, the fewer young people we will have with police records that will haunt them later in their lives.”

“It is vital to keep our schools safe and to address all incidents of bullying. However, not every instance requires law enforcement involvement,” said Rep. Charles Potter. “Once a child is introduced to the justice system, that stigma can follow them around for years, even if the incident was a minor one that could be resolved positively without involving law enforcement. By giving schools and victims’ families discretion, we will hopefully allow for more amicable resolutions to these incidents without unnecessarily overtaxing our criminal justice system and saddling young people with criminal records that hurt their chances to find a job and get a quality education.”

At the same time that the legislation seeks to limit students’ exposure to the criminal justice system, it also seeks to provide better advocacy for students who are the victims of school bullying. The bill would require schools to inform the parents of students who are the victims of bullying and their parents of the availability of an advocate from the Attorney General’s office.

“Too many victims of bullying feel that their concerns are not heard by their schools,” Denn said. “Most students don’t know that our office has a full time school ombudsman who can step in and advocate for bullying victims. This bill will require schools to notify the parents of bullying victims that this help is available.”

“I believe this piece of legislation will bring greater accountability to our school system, sending a clear message that bullying will not be tolerated and that our children’s education will always be at the forefront,” said Senator Brian Pettyjohn. “The job of the Ombudsman is to ensure that students and parents will be kept aware of their rights, and that violence in our schools will never be overlooked. In addition, allowing flexibility for parents and schools to make the right decision in each instance will help keep the focus where it belongs — on what is best for each child in each situation. This will save critical resources and prevent minor offenders from being forced into the criminal justice system.”

State Rep. Mike Ramone stated, “As many parents and students know all too well, unfortunately, bullying in our schools is a real issue. This legislation will ensure that the state’s response to these bullying incidents are handled with the same level of importance and seriousness as any other criminal offense in our schools.”