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State v. Newman

Superior Court of Delaware

February 1, 2019


          Submitted: January 24, 2019

         Defendant's Motion to Sever - DENIED Defendant's Motion in Limine - GRANTED IN PART, DENIED IN PART

          Dominic A. Carrera, Jr., Esquire and Jenna Milecki, Esquire, Attorneys for Plaintiff State of Delaware.

          Elliot Margules, Esquire and David Skoranski, Esquire, Attorneys for Defendant Shantell Newman.


          William C. Carpenter, Judge.


         The Court presently has two motions filed by Shantell Newman ("Defendant") in relation to the eight count Indictment in the above-captioned cases. The Defendant was indicted on April 3, 2017 for one count of Aggravated Act of Intimidation, one count of Stalking, one count of Harassment, four counts of Terroristic Threatening and one count of Falsely Reporting an Incident. The Defendant is requesting that the Court (a) sever Count I, the Aggravated Act of Intimidation charge, from the remaining Counts of the Indictment; (b) sever Count VII, Terroristic Threatening, and Count VIII, Falsely Reporting an Incident, from the other counts; and (c) try Counts II, III, IV, V, and VI together. The Defendant has also filed a Motion in Limine requesting that the incidents that occurred in Maryland, which are included as predicate acts in the Stalking charge, be excluded. This is the Court's ruling on each Motion.


         These charges stem from the Defendant's alleged reaction to being evicted from her apartment. The victims of the conduct set forth in the Indictment were her landlord and the property manager of the apartment. The criminal acts are alleged to have begun in 2014 when the eviction proceeding started and continued through February 2017, except for an 18-month period when the Defendant was incarcerated in Maryland. She was arrested on the Delaware charges in February of 2017 and the conduct ceased at that point in time. There are now charges pending in both Maryland and Delaware regarding her conduct with these victims.

         (A) Motion to Sever

         The charges found in Counts III through VIII were all scheduled for trial to be held in the Court of Common Pleas on February 8, 2017. However, it is alleged that the Defendant made threats of force or violence that were intended to dissuade the victims from appearing. This caused the State to nolle pros the Court of Common Pleas matter and led to the felony charge of Aggravated Act of Intimidation to be indicted for the threatening conduct which occurred on the eve of trial. In addition, the State added a Stalking charge for which the course of conduct matters included the conduct found in Counts III through VIII of the Indictment.

         Under Delaware Superior Court Rule 8(a), offenses of the same or similar character or based on two or more acts committed together or which constitute a common plan or scheme may be indicted together.[1] If, however, Defendant is prejudiced by the joinder of the offenses, the Court may order separate trials.[2]In considering a Motion to Sever, the Court must also consider whether the evidence of the charges the Defendant is requesting to be severed would be admissible in the trial of the other offenses. The Court finds that the charges here are interrelated and demonstrate a pattern of behavior that would provide justification to allow the Defendant's conduct through this period of time to be admitted in the trials of the Stalking and Aggravated Act of Intimidation charges. Therefore, the Motion to Sever will be denied.

         There is no dispute that the evidence to support the Harassment and Terroristic Threatening charges found in Counts III, IV, V and VI would be admissible in the Stalking matter. So, even the Defendant appears to agree those Counts should be tried together. The Defendant, however, argues that Counts VII and VIII should be severed as they deal with a different victim, i.e. the landlord instead of the property manager. However, the behavior and anger of the Defendant relates to misconduct directed toward both victims and centers around the Defendant's attempt to avoid eviction by her landlord, Mr. Howard, as pursued by the property manager, Ms. Brown. The victim distinction asserted by Defendant does not justify severance.

         Finally, the Defendant's argument that the Aggravated Act of Intimidation found in Count I should be severed is also without merit. The threats relate to a Court of Common Pleas trial that was to take place for the conduct set forth in Counts III through VIII. To establish the Aggravated Act of Intimidation, the State would be required to show why the threat occurred and clearly it is because the alleged offenses found in Counts III through VIII were proceeding to trial. The conduct here is so interrelated that separating the Counts would be a waste of judicial resources, and the Court finds it would not result in a reasonable probability of substantive injustice or the denial of a fair trial to the Defendant. ...

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