Judge assigned in Dover police assault case

DOVER — A New Castle County-based Superior Court Judge has been assigned to oversee the case of a Dover Police Department officer accused of kicking a man unconscious during an Aug. 24, 2013 arrest.

Judge Ferris W. Wharton will handle the case of Dover police Cpl. Thomas W. Webster III, indicted by a Kent County grand jury on a felony second-degree assault charge on May 4 of this year.

Thomas W. Webster III

Thomas W. Webster III

At a Thursday morning case review in Kent County Superior Court, Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. noted the matter was assigned to another judge and no future court date was yet assigned.

The defendant and lawyers for both sides were not in court during the hearing that lasted a minute or so. Deputy Attorney General Marie Graham represented the state to confirm details of the case with Judge Witham.

Dover lawyer Jim Liguori is representing Cpl. Webster, while Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney is prosecuting for the state.

As of now, the case is scheduled to remain in Kent County.

No reason for Judge Wharton’s assignment was available through the Delaware Courts, spokesman Sean O’Sullivan said.

“As a general rule, the court does not comment on the reasons for case assignments,” Mr. O’Sullivan said.

President Judge Jan Jurden handles case assignments and was listed as sending a letter in court documents regarding the case.

According to a biography on the Delaware state courts website, Judge Wharton worked at the Delaware Department of Justice from 1980 to 2003, heading the department’s Rape Response Unit, Drug Unit and Felony Trial Unit during his tenure.

Also, Judge Wharton was chief prosecutor in Kent and New Castle counties, state prosecutor and chief deputy attorney general.

From 2003 to 2006, Judge Wharton was an assistant U.S. attorney. He also worked as a private practice lawyer from 1978 to 1980 and 2006 to 2007.

Judge Wharton was an assistant public defender from 2007 until he was appointed to the Superior Court on June 5, 2014.

Cpl. Webster was suspended without pay by the Dover Police Department when an indictment was returned early this month.

Lateef A. Dickerson, 30, who Cpl. Webster allegedly assaulted in an incident captured on police dash cam video, is part of an ongoing weapons-related case in New Castle County Superior Court.

He could face life in prison as a habitual offender, depending on the outcome. A trial was scheduled for June 16.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware has filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Dickerson against Cpl. Webster and the City of Dover.

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