Jury finds Wilson guilty on five counts in 2013 incident

DOVER — Convicted on five of six counts against him Wednesday regarding an injurious vehicle crash while fleeing city police in 2013, a 51-year-old Dover man could get life in prison when sentenced in May.

If James A. Wilson is deemed a habitual offender, a minimum eight-year sentence is required and the ultimate length will be determined by Kent County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clark.

James A. Wilson waits outside the Kent County Courthouse in Dover Wednesday morning. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

James A. Wilson waits outside the Kent County Courthouse in Dover Wednesday morning. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Wilson’s bond was revoked Wednesday afternoon after the jury’s verdict, and a pre-sentence investigation was ordered. The defendant was placed in the custody of the Delaware Department of Correction.

A jury of 10 women and two men found Wilson guilty of second-degree assault, unreasonable speed, driving the wrong way on a road, disregarding a police officer’s signal and running a red light.

The charges stemmed from an April 4, 2013, incident in which Mr. Wilson sped away from police attempting to take him into custody during a search warrant execution at his “Many Things” business on Loockerman Street in downtown Dover, and subsequent crash into a truck that injured two people.

Afterward, defense attorney John Garey said, “We’re disappointed but respect the jury’s verdict at this stage in the proceedings.”

Deputy Attorney General Greg Babowal reacted to the verdict by saying, “The jury got this one right. They appreciated the seriousness of the defendant’s conduct and convicted him accordingly.”

Mr. Babowal noted before Judge Clark that three previous convictions made Mr. Wilson eligible for habitual offender status and a motion to request that was under consideration.

“I don’t think the conduct we heard about in the courtroom warrants eight years,” Mr. Garey said.

A not guilty finding on a possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony count allowed Wilson to avoid a possible 33 years to life sentence, Mr. Garey said.

The jury began deliberations at approximately 10:20 a.m., and returned with a verdict at roughly 1:30 p.m.

In closing arguments, Mr. Garey maintained that “basically what you have here is a car accident and someone got hurt.” He said Dover Police Department officers escalated the situation with a “Wild West” response that included drawn firearms pointed at his client whom he said was unarmed.

Mr. Garey said he was not trying to minimize injuries suffered during the incident, but said they were not serious.

Mr. Wilson had no intention to hit another vehicle or injure anyone, according to his attorney, and “he regrets what he did,” but fleeing police did not rise to the level of recklessness.

Mr. Babowal, however, cited the defendant’s testimony from Tuesday in which he asked “What am I supposed to do?” and opined Mr. Wilson should have exited the vehicle with his hands up as police approached and not create a dangerous situation by fleeing in his vehicle at a high rate of speed.

“You don’t check your life experiences and common sense at the door,” when entering the courthouse or deciding on a verdict, Mr. Babowal stressed to the jury in closing arguments.

“This is a case about someone fleeing from a felony traffic stop with an ‘I don’t care attitude’ …” Mr. Babowal said, arguing Wilson’s only concern was eluding police in any way possible.

The prosecution asked whether it was appropriate to abandon traffic laws because Mr. Wilson sought to avoid arrest.

“He drove that car like a bullet out of a gun,” Mr. Babowal said.

Just before the jury arrived in court on Tuesday, Mr. Babowal informed Judge Clark of a plea offer to second-degree assault and possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony; a two-year minimum sentence was required for that, along with consideration as a non-habitual status and a pre-sentence investigation.

Mr. Wilson did not accept the plea offer.

Scheduled eight times from Sept. 17, 2013, to Monday, defense and prosecution agreed that the trial was the longest-running case in Kent County Superior Court at the time.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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