Sussex County carjacking conviction overturned

GEORGETOWN — A Bridgeville man’s conviction after a 2013 abduction of an 89-year-old Lincoln woman was vacated last week after the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that his alleged involvement came after a carjacking for which he was convicted.

Citing the “language and history of Delaware’s carjacking statute, that the crime of carjacking is not a continuing crime but completed at the point when all the elements of the crime have been satisfied,” the Supreme Court reversed the convictions of Rondaiges A. Harper, who was 17 at the time of his arrest on March 20, 2013.

The Supreme Court reasoned that Mr. Harper could not be found guilty of first-degree kidnapping and second-degree conspiracy as well because they were connected to the carjacking conviction that was later voided. The opinion was issued last Thursday.

Rondaiges A. Harper

Rondaiges A. Harper

After the opinion, the Delaware Department of Justice had 15 days to make a decision on refiling charges. A spokesman said Monday that “We’re currently evaluating our options in the case.”

In Sussex County Superior Court, Mr. Harper was found guilty of all counts by a jury on June 26, 2014. According to his attorney John Brady, Mr. Harper served 2 1/2 years in prison before his release on Saturday.

“He was still sorry for what happened to (the victim),” Mr. Brady said.

“He said it was foolish I said ‘You have an opportunity now to be a better person, a better citizen.’ He said he would take advantage of that opportunity.”

Mr. Brady said it was the first time in his more than 22 years of practicing law that he had attended a remand hearing and “it’s very rare to have all charges thrown out on appeal.”

The original first-degree carjacking sentence included 25 years of Level V incarceration, suspended after six months for Level IV work release, and then two years Level III probation.

The first-degree kidnapping count brought 25 years Level V incarceration, and the two conspiracy counts were each sentenced at two years of Level V incarceration, suspended after one year of Level III probation.

Three persons involved with the abduction all pleaded guilty to multiple offenses and are serving lengthy jail terms, the Supreme Court wrote in its decision.

During the ongoing incident, papers said, Mr. Harper and a woman joined the three persons after the abductee had been released in a cemetery in Seaford,

The elderly woman was found on a cold March 20, 2013 morning using two sticks to support herself, wearing only wet and dirty socks on her feet, according to a recap in court documents.

At the time arrests were announced, the Delaware State Police said the elderly woman was transported to Nanticoke Hospital in Seaford, where she was treated and released.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Superior Court errantly denied Mr. Harper’s “motion for judgment acquittal for first-degree carjacking because he cannot be convicted of participating in an already completed crime.

“Harper also claims that the Superior Court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal for kidnapping in the first degree, because that charge was predicated on his commission of the crime of carjacking in the first degree …”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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