Dover man’s sentence for criminal mischief tossed

Thomas L. Fleetwood

Thomas L. Fleetwood

DOVER — A man acquitted of criminal mischief during a March 2015 incident and yet sentenced to prison for it had the order overturned in Delaware Supreme Court last week.

In Kent County Superior Court earlier, Thomas L. Fleetwood was sentenced as a habitual offender after a jury found him guilty of second-degree burglary, misdemeanor theft and offensive touching, and also received prison time for those offenses.

The not guilty criminal mischief finding brought an initial one-year Level V prison sentence as well, suspended after one year at Level III probation.

Supreme Court denied Fleetwood’s other claims in an eight-page order, which centered around jury instruction and improper statements by the prosecutor in a closing argument.

“Even though the prosecutor engaged in improper closing argument, the error that occurred here did not result in fundamental unfairness given the strong and highly incrimatory evidence against Fleetwood,” Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. wrote in the opinion.

A lesser included first-degree criminal trespass finding option was not presented to the jury, which Fleetwood believed was improper.

However, Justice Seitz maintained, “Though a criminal defendant has no burden to present any evidence at trial, Fleetwood was obligated to point to some evidence in the record that would allow the jury rationally to find that he entered the apartment for a reason other than to commit theft.”

According to police at the time, Fleetwood, 50, broke into a residence on South Bradford Street at approximately 1:50 a.m., and was confronted by the returning occupants holding their computer and food from the refrigerator.

Fleetwood began assaulting the male resident and a 911 call was placed during the incident, police said. The suspect was located by police and taken into custody.

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