18 charged; 3 inmates already serving life terms. All are entitled to "competent, conflict-free" legal representation, said Chief Defender Brendan O’Neill.
The Delaware Department of Justice has indicted 18 individuals, including 16 charged with first-degree murder, in connection with the Feb. 1-2 uprising and riot at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.
Three inmates already are serving life sentences for first-degree murder; four others are serving varying sentences for second-degree murder. Three are serving terms for manslaughter.
DOJ spokesman Carl Kanefsky said the riot resulted in the murder of Lt. Steven Floyd, injuries to Correctional Officers Winslow Smith and Joshua Wilkinson and the kidnapping of counselor Patricia May. Because the investigation is ongoing, and because of court rules that restrict prosecutors’ ability to publicly discuss criminal matters before the time of trial, police and prosecutors have no further comment about the indictments, Kanefsky said.
The indictments were handed up Oct. 16 by a New Castle County grand jury.
All 18 have been jailed in Delaware correctional facilities since at least Feb. 2. The indictments were initially sealed so Department of Correction personnel could take security precautions to process the inmates on the indictments.
Charges against 16 individuals include three counts of first-degree murder (intentional murder, felony murder, and recklessly causing death of a correctional officer); two counts of first-degree assault (a count each regarding Smith and Wilkinson); four counts of first-degree kidnapping (a count each for Floyd, Smith, Wilkinson, and May); riot; and second-degree conspiracy for conspiring to commit riot.
Those indicted for first-degree murder are:
1. Jarreau A. Ayers, 36, serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and other charges. He already had been serving a life sentence for a January 2000 killing when in June 2011 he admitted to having killed another man in February 1997.
2. Abednego Baynes, 25, serving 18 years for second-degree murder; he was scheduled for release in April 2025.
3. Kevin Berry, 27, serving 14 years for three counts of first-degree robbery and other charges; he was scheduled for release in June 2021.
4. John Bramble, 28, serving 40 years for possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, second-degree assault, possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, possession of ammunition by a person prohibited and home invasion; he was scheduled for release in October 2048.
5. Abdul-Haqq El-Qadeer, aka Luis Sierra, 31, serving a life sentence for first-degree murder; he was convicted of killing a man in 2010.
6. Deric Forney, 28, serving 11 years for possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a person prohibited and drug charges; he was due for release in February 2023.
7. Kelly Gibbs, 29, serving a 24 year, nine-month sentence for second-degree murder; he was due for release in January 2031
8. Robert Hernandez, 36, an inmate from New Mexico serving a 16-year sentence for second-degree murder in that state, he was due for release in June 2020.
9. Janiis Mathis, 25, serving 15 years for second-degree assault and other charges; he was due for release in February 2027.
10. Lawrence Michaels, 31, serving 19 years for first-degree kidnapping, first-degree attempted robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and other charges; he was due for release in May 2024.
11. Obadiah Miller, 25, serving 10 years for manslaughter and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony; he was due for release in November 2019.
12. Jonatan O. Rodriguez, 25, serving 40 years for manslaughter and other charges; he was due for release in November 2049.
13. Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz, 27, serving 40 years for manslaughter and other charges; he was due for release in February 2045.
14. Roman Shankaras, 30, serving seven years for riot and two counts of first-degree robbery; he was due for release in November 2017.
15. Corey Smith, 32, serving 14 years for a violation of probation for possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited, violation of probation for carrying a concealed deadly weapon, first-degree attempted robbery, second-degree assault and promoting prison contraband; he was due for release in July 2020.
16. Dwayne C. Staats, 35, serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.; he was convicted in 2005 of killing a man over a $120 debt.
Kidnapping, riot, and conspiracy
Two others were charged with four counts of first-degree kidnapping (a count each for Floyd, Smith, Wilkinson, and May), one count of riot and one count of second-degree conspiracy for conspiring to commit riot.
1. Pedro Chairez, 42, an inmate from Arizona serving a 43-year sentence for second-degree murder and other charges committed in that state; he was due for release in May 2033.
2. Royal Downs, 52, an inmate from Maryland serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and other charges committed in that state.
Attorney General Matt Denn expressed his gratitude to Delaware State Police Sgt. David Weaver, Deputy Attorneys General John Downs, Brian Robertson and Nichole Warner, the Delaware State Police Homicide, Criminal Investigation and Evidence Detection Units, and the Delaware Department of Correction for the extensive work resulting in Monday’s indictments.
“This was an extremely important and time-consuming investigation that involved unique challenges,” Denn said. “I appreciate the police and prosecutors focus on ensuring that justice is done for the victims in this case and their families.”
Each inmate is entitled to a vigorous defense against these charges, Chief Defender Brendan O’Neill said.
“The Office of Defense Services is aware of the indictment announced today by the Department of Justice.
“The Office of Defense Services is prepared to provide a lawyer for each person charged in the indictment and has started the process of doing so,” O’Neill said. “The Office of Defense Services is committed to providing each and every client with competent, conflict-free legal representation.
“Under our system of justice, each of these persons is presumed innocent, and the lawyers in the Office of Defense Services will do their utmost to protect the constitutional rights of their clients.
“The Office of Defense Services has no other comment at this time,” he said.
(Note: This story was updated to include a statement from the Office of Defense Services.)