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State drops charges against six of nine remaining Vaughn prison riot defendants

Sarah Mueller
Delaware Public Media

The state is dropping charges against six of the nine remaining defendants in trials related to the deadly 2017 riot at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.


The nine remaining defendants were scheduled to be tried in two groups— one beginning in May and the other in October. Now just three defendants face trials: Roman Shankaras, Lawrence Michaels and Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz. The three were charged with murder, assault, conspiracy, kidnapping and riot.

Officials declined to comment on whether the three will be tried on all of those charges. Shankaras is scheduled to be tried in April and Michaels and Rodriguez-Ortiz in October.

“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,” said Mat Marshall, Delaware DOJ spokesman, in a statement. “Prosecutors in the Vaughn trials – who are among the Department’s most experienced and who have done a remarkable job in an exceedingly difficult case – have evaluated the evidence against the remaining defendants in light of the testimony in the first two trials and the results of those trials.”

A jury did not deliver a single guilty verdict in the trials of four Vaughn inmates that ended in February. Those inmates were also charged with murder, riot, kidnapping, conspiracy and riot.

Only one of the three defendants in the first trial last fall was convicted of murder. Another was acquitted on all charges.

Most of the defendants were originally indicted on three counts of first-degree murder. One of these counts— for intentional murder— was dropped by prosecutors in January.

Officials say victims of the riot have been notified of the decision not to try six of the remaining defendants.

“Obtaining a measure of justice for victims is of paramount importance in all prosecution decisions,” said Marshall.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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