Gun Charges Lead To Prison Terms For Multiple Defendants

A 37-year-old Newark man will spend the next 23 years in prison after sentencing by a Superior Court judge on weapons, identity theft, and reckless driving charges. Deputy Attorney General Marc Petrucci secured the sentence for Damien Roberts. In November 2016, New Castle County police officers found Roberts unresponsive inside of his car in the middle of the intersection of Route 40 and Brookmont Drive, with the car running and in gear. Officers broke a window to check on the welfare of Roberts, and then ordered Roberts out of the car after noticing a magazine for a firearm tucked under his leg. Roberts gave police a fake name after officers found a 40-caliber handgun in his pant leg. Roberts was barred from having a gun because of previous weapons and robbery convictions. A Superior Court judge sentenced Roberts for his January 2018 guilty plea to Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, Reckless Driving – Alcohol Related, and Identity Theft, to 23 years in prison, followed by 6 months of either home confinement or work release, then 18 months of probation. New Castle County Police Officers Det. Brian Shahan, Det. Daryl Haines, Det. Jennifer Escheman, Ofc. Paul Ruszkay and Sgt. Justin Breslin investigated the case. DOJ paralegal Donna Lee also assisted in the prosecution.

A social media video showing a 22-year old Bridgeville man with several guns led to a 5-year prison sentence. Deputy Attorney General Kevin Gardner secured the sentence after a guilty plea from Elijah Desir. In October 2017, Desir posted a Snapchat video showing himself with several guns, including holding what appeared to be an AK-47-style assault rifle. Desir cannot possess a gun because of a Reckless Endangering First Degree conviction in 2016. Desir pled guilty to Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, and was immediately sentenced by a Superior Court judge to 5 years in prison followed by 1 year of probation.

Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney secured a prison sentence for a Wilmington man declared a habitual offender for his conviction on a weapons charge. In June 2017, a probation officer doing a curfew check on Terrance Jackson, 29, found Jackson outside of his home in the 2500 block of North Washington Street, which was a violation of his curfew. The curfew violation led to a search of Jackson’s home, which turned up a .357 magnum revolver. Jackson, prohibited from having a gun because of past violent felony convictions on drug and weapons charges, pled guilty in January 2017 to Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited. A Superior Court Judge sentenced Jackson to 15 years in prison, with 18 months of probation re-imposed from a 2016 conviction for Drug Dealing Heroin.


Kent County Man Sentenced for Manslaughter

Others face prison time for rape, gun, and drug charges

A 30-year-old Magnolia man was sentenced to prison in connection with a July 2015 killing in the Simon Circle neighborhood in Dover. Deputy Attorney General Stephen Welch secured the sentence for Erick Morton, after Morton pled guilty to Manslaughter. Morton was identified by surveillance video from municipal cameras that captured him shooting 35-year-old Jamal Weeks of Dover, in the 900 block of North Street. Morton was sentenced by Judge William Witham to 20 years in prison, suspended after 5 years for 6 months of Level IV work release, followed by 1 year of Level III probation and 1 year of Level II probation.

Deputy Attorney General Periann Doko secured a prison sentence for Charles Johnson, 34, of Wilmington. In February 2014, Johnson was arrested after being involved in a heroin deal. Johnson fled from police as they tried to stop his car, throwing money out of the window as he drove. Johnson pled guilty in May 2016 to Drug Dealing (Tier 2 quantity of heroin) and Disregarding a Police Signal. He was sentenced as a habitual offender due to previous violent drug and assault convictions to five years in prison, followed by probation.

Deputy Attorneys General Caterina Gatto and Christina Kontis secured a five-year prison sentence for Malik Moss, 31, of Bear after convicting him at trial in February for Drug Dealing (Tier 4 quantity of heroin), Aggravated Possession of Heroin, Disregarding a Police Officer’s Signal, Possession of Marijuana and Reckless Driving. In April 2014, Moss fled from police during a traffic stop. The car was found abandoned on the front lawn of a nearby residence. A large amount of heroin, some marijuana, and a cell phone were left behind. The vehicle and drugs were linked back to Moss through fingerprint and cellphone analysis.

Deputy Attorney General Sonia Augusthy secured an eight-year prison sentence for 19-year-old Al-Ghaniyy Price of Wilmington. Price pled guilty in April to Maintaining a Drug Property, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, Possession of Ammunition by a Person Prohibited, and Drug Dealing (Tier 4 quantity of heroin). Price was arrested in May 2015 as part of an investigation into drug activity in the Sparrow Run neighborhood. When police entered his bedroom in his mother’s home, they found more than 150 grams of heroin, a 9-mm handgun, and ammunition. Price was sentenced by Judge John A. Parkins, Jr. to a total of eight years in prison, followed by six months at Level IV, then two years of Level III probation. DAG Augusthy also secured a prison sentence Mik’trell Spriggs, 22, of Sparrow Run, as a result of his conviction in the same drug investigation. Spriggs was charged with selling crack cocaine while on probation for a previous drug dealing conviction. Spriggs was sentenced to a total of eight-and-a-half years at Level V for three counts of Drug Dealing, as well as his Violation of Probation. His prison term will be followed by 6 months at Level IV, and 18 months of Level III probation.

Deputy Attorney General Jan van Amerongen secured a prison sentence for Paul Brunhammer, 34, of Salem, New Jersey. Brunhammer pled guilty in May to Rape Third Degree in a case from 2010. Brunhammer raped the daughter of his ex-girlfriend while he was visiting the mother’s home in Newark. When the victim reported the assault, Brunhammer was incarcerated in New Jersey for an unrelated sexual assault. Brunhammer was returned to Delaware earlier this year to face the new charge after completing his New Jersey sentence for Aggravated Sexual Assault. Judge William C. Carpenter, Jr. sentenced Brunhammer to 25 years in prison, suspended after 10 years for two years of Level III probation, and ordered him to register as a Tier III sex offender.


Prosecution of Juveniles with Guns as Adults Highlights Recent DOJ Developments

WILMINGTON, DE – The Department of Justice’s continuing efforts to target serious juvenile gun offenses has led to the decision to hear the gun-related cases of three local teenagers in Superior Court. The Attorney General recently began personally reviewing each new juvenile gun offense, and has directed that some offenses which would previously have been handled as delinquency cases in Family Court be treated instead as adult cases due to their severity and/or the defendant’s history with the criminal justice system.

After prevailing in a Family Court hearing, the illegal gun possession case of 17-year-old John Brisco was transferred to New Castle County Superior Court. Brisco, on probation for a previous person prohibited for felony ammunition charge, was arrested in February, after a picture on one of his social media sites allegedly showed him with a gun. A probation officer found a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun in the bedroom of his Wilmington home. Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney successfully argued in Family Court for the case to be transferred to Superior Court and tried as an adult case.

The cases of two other juveniles will also be heard in Superior Court. Based on the nature of their charges, a 16-year-old and 15-year-old will both be tried as adults. The two were allegedly involved in the armed robberies of a convenience store and a donut shop in New Castle in April of this year. The Department of Justice is not releasing the identities of the juveniles pending indictment until the Superior Court agrees to try them as adults.

Trial success:

Deputy Attorneys General Periann Doko and Julie Finocchiaro secured a conviction against Curtis Finney, 21, of New Castle, in a jury trial. During a traffic stop in August 2013, police found two loaded handguns, and 378 bags of heroin in a car driven by Finney. Finney was convicted of multiple counts of drug dealing, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and possession of a firearm by a person prohibited. As a result, Finney will receive a minimum mandatory of 22 years in prison when sentenced later this year. Finney also received an 8-year prison sentence on his violation of probation in this case when prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney.

Deputy Attorney General John Taylor secured a conviction against 21-year-old Balisha White of New Castle in a jury trial, being found guilty of theft and resisting arrest. In August 2014, White broke into a home in the 2500 block of North Broom Street in Wilmington, stole items from the home, and then ran from police. White was immediately sentenced to a year in prison, suspended for a year’s probation on each count.

Deputy Attorney General Zachary Rosen secured a conviction against Howard Walsh, 50, of Wilmington. Walsh was found guilty on three counts of possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, one count of possession of ammunition by a person prohibited, one count of carrying a concealed dangerous instrument, and one count of criminal impersonation. In October 2014, police responded to Miller’s Gun Center in New Castle after receiving reports of a person with a gun wearing body armor. A woman purchased a gun and then gave it to Walsh, who then falsely told police he was a detective.

Deputy Attorney General Caroline Brittingham secured a conviction against Leroy Mitchell, 29, of Wilmington, for drug dealing and disregarding a police officer’s signal, related to a chase with the Laurel Police Department. Mitchell drove away from police during a traffic stop, then after crashing through a fence, fled on foot. When fleeing, he threw multiple logs of heroin that had been in a bag in his car.

Deputy Attorney General Kevin Gardner secured a guilty verdict against 56-year-old Stephen Shaw of Brookhaven, PA, for his third DUI offense. In March 2014, police found Shaw slumped over the steering wheel of his car in a parking lot in the 1200 block of Savannah Road in Lewes. Police noticed the smell of alcohol, and Shaw was unable to maintain his balance once getting out of the car. A subsequent blood draw showed his blood alcohol level to be .24.

Sentencing success:

Deputy Attorney General Lindsay Taylor secured a 7-year prison sentence for 27-year-old Stephen Hoffrage of Dover, for third degree rape. Hoffrage met his 15-year-old victim on a social messaging app, and raped her at her home in Smyrna. As a result of his conviction, Hoffrage is now registered as a Tier III sex offender.

Deputy Attorney General John Taylor secured a plea form Barry White, 39, of Wilmington, for possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, and two violations of probation: one for drug dealing, the other for first degree assault. During a traffic stop in November 2014, officers noticed the smell of marijuana, and White admitted to having marijuana with him. Police also found White had a gun. The court sentenced White to 15 years suspended after 10 on the gun charge, 6 years suspended after 3 years on the assault, and re-imposed probation for the drug dealing.

Deputy Attorney General Jamie McCloskey secured a plea from 29-year-old Ralph Nock for home invasion and first degree robbery. In September 2014, Nock robbed two people at knife-point inside a home in the 100 block of Cross Avenue in New Castle. Nock was immediately sentenced to nine years in prison.

Deputy Attorney General Jamie McCloskey secured a plea from Scott Newcomer, 28, of New Castle, for second degree burglary and felony theft. In November 2014, Newcomer climbed through the window of a house in the unit block of Scottie Lane in New Castle, ransacked the house, and stole several items. Upon entering his plea, Newcomer was immediately to three years in prison.

Deputy Attorney General Timothy Maguire secured a plea from David Griffin, for a fourth DUI. Griffin was sentenced to 5 years in prison, suspended after nine months for one year supervised probation, as well as a $3,000 fine, the Statutory DUI Course/loss of license and Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring. In December 2014, Griffin was involved in a hit and run accident. He was also ordered to pay restitution.

Resolution success:

Deputy Attorney General Eric Zubrow secured guilty pleas for two counts of second degree conspiracy, and one count of criminal solicitation from Richard Ray, 27, of Wilmington. While in prison, Ray convinced his brother to commit a robbery in hopes of getting enough money for bail. He was also rearrested during his brother’s trial for witness intimidation, resulting in the second conspiracy charge.

Deputy Attorney General John Taylor secured a guilty pleas from Jamaal Dearry, 29, of Bear, for drug dealing, possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. While executing a search warrant in November 2014, the Special Operations Response Team (S.O.R.T.) found drugs in an apartment on Brookside Boulevard in Newark, where Dearry was with three other people. He is facing fifteen years minimum mandatory prison time.


Department of Justice Highlights Include a Guilty Plea from a Teen Shooter, and Prison Time for an Attempted Bank Robber

WILMINGTON, DE – Deputy Attorneys General within the Delaware Department of Justice had several significant successes recently, including a case where a juvenile was adjudicated as an adult for a crime involving a firearm, consistent with Attorney General Denn’s announced focus on teens with guns.

Resolutions:

Deputy Attorneys General Jamie McCloskey and Caterina Gatto secured a guilty plea from 16-year-old Brandon Pendergast of Townsend, for second degree assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Following an altercation during a Middletown High School football game on September 5, 2014, Pendergast, while riding in a van along East Lake Street, shot two teenagers on the street. Prosecutors also prevailed in a reverse amenability hearing on February 20, 2015, which kept all of the charges in Superior Court.

Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney secured a guilty from Brandon Turner, 21, of New Castle, to drug dealing and conspiracy, and from Alvin Phillips, 49, of Wilmington, for second degree conspiracy. The pair were involved in the sale of heroin throughout the New Castle area.

Deputy Attorney General Brian Robertson secured a guilty plea from Khalif Lewis 26, of Wilmington, for carrying a concealed deadly weapon. During a pedestrian stop along Concord Avenue in Wilmington in October 2014, police found Lewis trying to hide a loaded semi-automatic handgun.

Deputy Attorney General John Taylor secured a guilty plea for possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited, and second degree assault, from Jason Hall 46, of Wilmington. On August 27, 2014, Hall exchanged words with another man at a gas station on North Market Street in Wilmington. During the argument, Hall swung a box cutter at the victim, slicing him on the hand.

Deputy Attorney General Brian Robertson secured a guilty plea against 29-year-old Leroy Mitchell of Wilmington, for possession of a firearm by a person prohibited. Mitchell was stopped by police in the 800 block of Morrow Street in Wilmington for not wearing a seatbelt. When officers approached the car, they detected the smell of marijuana, which led them to search the vehicle. Officers found a loaded 9mm handgun next to the driver’s seat.

Deputy Attorneys General John Downs and Jan van Amerongen secured a guilty plea in State v. David Yarborough, 30, of Bear, to two counts of first degree attempted assault, and two counts of second degree burglary. Yarborough tried to hire a hitman to harm two individuals, but it turned out he was negotiating with an undercover officer. The Habitual Offender motion will be filed for the burglary charges, making the mandatory time for the assault and burglary 20 years in prison. Also resolved as part of the plea was an insurance fraud case, where the defendant will be sentenced on one count by Judge Young in Dover.

Deputy Attorney General David Holloway secured a guilty plea against Anthony Livesay, 48, of New Castle, in connection with a drunk driving incident. Livesay struck two vehicles in the area of Route 273 and Old Baltimore Pike on June 20, 2014, injuring the driver of one of the other cars. He pled guilty to driving under the influence for the fourth time, and first degree vehicular assault.

Sentences:

Deputy Attorney General Julie Finocchiaro secured a 30-year prison sentence against 47-year-old Joseph Slayton of Newark for first degree robbery, and first degree attempted robbery. Slayton was also declared an habitual offender. In April 2014, Slayton pushed an elderly woman to the ground in a parking lot and stole her purse, and a short time later tried to rob a nearby bank.

Deputy Attorney General Julie Finocchiaro secured a three year prison sentence for first degree robbery against Rachel Golden, 20, of Bear. Golden was sentenced for her part in the robbery of a pizza deliveryman at a Newark Apartment complex in April 2014.

Deputy Attorney General David Holloway secured a 10-year prison sentence, suspended after 4 years for 18 months of supervised probation, against Brian Taylor, 26, of Hampton, Virginia, for aggravated possession of drugs. Taylor was stopped for speeding on Route 1 on August 5, 2014, and after a search of the car, police found 257.5 grams of cocaine in the glove compartment.

Deputy Attorney General David Holloway secured a 10-year prison sentence, suspended after 10 months for 18 months of supervised probation, against Tyrone Gardner, 25, of New Castle, for drug dealing. During a traffic stop in July 2014, police found 50 bundles of heroin, along with a large amount of cash.


Department of Justice Taking Tougher Stance on Juveniles With Guns

Attorney General Matt Denn announced today a series of initiatives the Department of Justice is undertaking to address the problem of juveniles carrying firearms. The steps include prosecution of some juveniles with serious or multiple firearm offenses as adults, ensuring that juveniles who are a danger to the public are not released back into the community immediately after they are arrested, and expanding the ability of Family Court to punish violent crime.

“Juvenile gun possession is one of the most serious threats to public safety that I have seen in my first eleven weeks in office,” Denn said. “Part of the reason is that adults have told these juveniles that there are no real consequences to carrying guns – and too often that has been true. We have to ensure that there are consequences, and that juveniles know about those consequences.”

Prosecution of Serious Juvenile Gun Offenses As Adult Crimes

The first component of the Department of Justice’s new juvenile anti-gun program involves charging decisions for juveniles. The Attorney General has begun personally reviewing each new juvenile gun offense, and has directed that some offenses which would previously have been handled as delinquency cases in Family Court be treated instead as adult cases due to their severity and/or the defendant’s history with the criminal justice system.

There are two juveniles for whom this new process has already been implemented. The first is a seventeen year old who is a member of one of Wilmington’s known youth gangs. This defendant, who has a series of adjudications dating back four years for offenses including resisting arrest, illegal possession of ammunition, and terroristic threatening, was arrested again in February of this year for multiple felony firearms offenses. With supporting testimony from the FBI and the Wilmington Police Department, the Department of Justice has asked the Family Court for permission to prosecute this defendant as an adult, and that request is currently awaiting a decision from the Family Court.

The second juvenile, age 15, led Wilmington police on a high speed chase in a stolen vehicle through the streets of Wilmington in February, and subsequently on a foot chase after he abandoned the stolen vehicle. A loaded and cocked semi-automatic weapon, which had also been stolen, was found in the vehicle, tucked between the front seat and the console. This defendant’s case has been sent automatically to Superior Court because of the Attorney General’s decision to charge him with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

“We need juveniles in our state to understand that carrying a gun has real consequences,” Denn said. “It no longer automatically means a delinquency charge that will disappear from your record when you turn 18. Prosecuting a juvenile as an adult is a difficult decision and one that we don’t make lightly, but these gun crimes have created an intolerable condition on our streets.“

In pointing out the need for this new policy, Denn noted a recent report from the Criminal Justice Council’s Statistical Analysis Center which showed that from 2011 to 2013, thirty five percent of the juveniles arrested for shootings in the City of Wilmington already had a prior firearms arrest from a separate incident.

Ensuring that Dangerous Juveniles Are Detained After Arrest

In response to concerns expressed by a number of law enforcement professionals that juveniles who they had arrested for serious felony offenses were immediately released to the custody of their families pending trial, the Department of Justice has worked with the judiciary and the Wilmington Police Department to create a new process to ensure that prosecutors are present at bail hearings for juveniles arrested during evening and weekend hours for serious felonies.

Effective immediately, Wilmington Police Department officers who arrest juveniles on charges that constitute Class D felonies or greater during evening or weekend hours will immediately notify the Department of Justice, which will in turn ensure that a prosecutor can present evidence at the juvenile’s bail hearing (prosecutors already participate during regular business hours in bail hearings involving juveniles). This new procedure received its first use this past weekend, when one of our prosecutors was called at 3:00 a.m. Saturday to attend a bail hearing for teenager who was arrested for attempted murder in the city.

This new program mirrors a program involving adult bail hearings that has been in place for some time in the City of Wilmington, and which has shown demonstrable success in ensuring that sufficiently high bail is set for individuals who would present a threat to the community.

“We have heard from too many law enforcement officers that they arrested juveniles for serious felony charges one night, only to see them out on the same corners again a night or two later,” Denn said. “This heightened attention from our office to bail hearings will help us ensure that evidence is properly presented to magistrates and that potentially violent juveniles are kept off the streets pending trial.”

Allowing Family Court to Punish Delinquent Juveniles

Last week, Attorney General Denn noted what he considers to be a deficiency in the state’s laws governing Family Court: the Court is not permitted to consider punishment of juveniles, harm to victims, or deterrence of other juveniles in determining the sentences it imposes for even the most serious crimes.

This month, the Department of Justice will be asking the General Assembly to establish a task force to re-examine the Family Court’s governing statute, so that a group of judges, attorneys who practice in Family Court, and community members with expertise in children’s issues can discuss the possibility of amending the law in order to allow Family Court judges to consider more factors when sentencing juveniles who are adjudicated delinquent.