State drops more charges in Vaughn riot case

SMYRNA — Delaware’s Department of Justice decided in April it would no longer pursue riot and assault charges against John Bramble — one of 18 inmates originally indicted for perpetrating the 2017 riot at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that left Lt. Steven Floyd dead.

According to the office of his attorney Tom Pederson, the state entered a nolle prosequi (formal abandonment of action) on the two pending charges against Bramble on April 2.

The choice to drop these charges came shortly after the DOJ announced in mid-March it would drop all charges against six of the nine inmates that were still awaiting trial.

Explaining their rationale at the time, the DOJ released a statement stating: “Prosecutors have an obligation only to prosecute criminal cases where they believe there is a reasonable likelihood of a conviction at trial based on the evidence.”

Since trials of the 18 inmates began last October prosecutors have been dogged by a low conviction rate — with only one inmate found guilty of murder among seven tried in two separate trials.

John Bramble

Bramble, one of four tried earlier this year, was charged with murder, assault, riot, conspiracy and kidnapping. On Feb. 18, after almost five days of deliberation, the jury found Bramble not guilty of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, but they returned “no decision” verdicts on riot and assault of correctional officer Winslow Smith.

Mr. Pederson said at the time: “Given the two sets of verdicts now, I think the state really has to give their case some serious thought and serious consideration. The witnesses they have called have told so many different stories and there are so many contradictions that I don’t know how they will ever convince any jury beyond a reasonable doubt based on the witnesses they’ve called in the first two trials.”

With the decision, the case against Bramble is closed. DOJ officials declined to comment.

Bramble was sentenced to 40 years in 2013 for home invasion, assault and firearm charges, according to the DOC. He’s scheduled to be released in 2048.

The other ‘no decision’
Although he was tried alongside Bramble, the DOJ appears not to have made their decision regarding the remaining charges against Obadiah Miller.

Miller was found not guilty of conspiracy, assault and kidnapping but the jury returned “no decision” verdicts for riot and the two individual counts of murder (felony murder and murder of a law enforcement officer).

When asked if the charges were dropped against his client, Miller’s defense attorney, Tony Figliola, simply said “no.” The DOJ declined to comment.

Now in its second week, the trial to determine the fate of Roman Shankaras — one of the 18 originally indicted inmates — is ongoing at the New Castle County Courthouse. Judge William C. Carpenter Jr. has said he expects the trial to conclude before Memorial Day. The remaining two inmates who have yet to stand trial — Lawrence Michaels and Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz — are scheduled to do so in October.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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