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Sentences handed down in Vaughn prison uprising cases


Three inmates involved in the 2017 riot at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna were sentenced Friday.

Eighteen inmates originally faced charges, including 16 charged with murder of correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd, who died during the standoff. Only two were convicted. 

Dwayne Staats was the only inmate convicted of murder, as well as lesser charges. He received more than 150 years plus two life sentences Friday. He is already serving a life sentence.

Jarreau Ayers was found guilty of riot, assault, kidnapping and conspiracy. He was sentenced to more than 120 years, and is also currently serving a life sentence. 

Royal Downs pleaded guilty to riot before the trials and served as a key state witness. He was sentenced Friday to three years in Delaware Department of Correction custody to be served after he finishes his current life sentence in Maryland. 

“Today’s sentencing bring some measure of accountability,” said DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis. “But under the circumstances, no sentence will really serve the true interest of justice for the men and women in the Department of Correction that have lived with this now for 2.5 years. ”


Geoff Klopp, president of the Delaware correctional officers’ union, called the process an “epic failure” by the state’s criminal justice system.

“We implore the members of the General Assembly to please take a look at having proper tools available— the death penalty in certain situations,” he said. “Because what we had today is in no way shape or form justice. Someone who is already doing a life sentence, there must be a deterrent to stop someone from doing an action.”

Department of Correction Commissioner Claire DeMatteis also expressed support for the death penalty following Friday's sentencing hearing.  Delaware’s death penalty was ruled unconstitional in 2016.


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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