On Wednesday, June 12, Delaware announced it was dropping its last two cases against former Vaughn prisoners accused of participation in the 2017 prison takeover. Lawrence Michaels and Alejandro Rodriguez-Ortiz, whom the state claimed helped subdue correctional officers at the beginning of the takeover, will no longer be facing trial in the fall. The state also announced that it would not be retrying defendant Obadiah Miller, for whom the jury in a previous trial could not come to a decision about whether he had fought and stabbed the officer who later succumbed to his injuries. The other defendant against whom the jury had returned no decision charges on the assaults, John Bramble, had his remaining charges dropped in March. The charges cannot be brought back up.
The announcement is a major victory for all 16 remaining defendants, who chose to stick together and take their cases to trial in spite of extreme retaliatory abuse by the prisons, as well as the betrayal by one of the 18 indicted prisoners (Royal “Diamond” Downs), who was secretly working with the prosecution. Following the first trial, defendant Kelly Gibbs took a non-cooperating plea deal and later took his own life.
The defendants have worked non-stop since their indictment in fall 2017 to expose the lies on which the state has built its case, as well as the systemic abuse they’ve experienced leading up to the takeover and in retaliation. Two of the defendants who are serving life sentences, Jarreau Ayers (“Ruk”) and Dwayne Staats, sacrificed what chance they might have left of getting out of prison by testifying on behalf of the other defendants and taking responsibility for planning and carrying out aspects of the uprising.
Delaware’s announcement followed two trials in a row in which the state failed to obtain any convictions. The most recently exonerated defendant, Roman Shankaras, was released after his not guilty verdict on May 23. This past week, Rome gave damning interviews to the press that completely destroyed whatever credibility the state might have had left. The state’s decision also followed the release last week of a scathing letter written by Jarreau Ayers to mainstream press, which described the fallacies of the state’s case and the corporate media’s unapologetically biased coverage.
But retaliation continues against the defendants who are still on the other side of the fence. Despite having almost all been found not guilty or had their charges dropped, the state is continuing to punish ten of the defendants (Jarreau Ayers, Abednego Baynes, Kevin Berry, John Bramble, Deric Forney, Janiis Mathis, Obadiah Miller, Jonathan Rodriguez, Corey Smith, Dwayne Staats) who are now in Pennsylvania, where they are being held on lockdown indefinitely (via placement on PA’s Restricted Release List) on vague and questionable grounds. More than two years later, these prisoners are still being abused for staying in solidarity with one another against the state.
Shoutout to all the defendants and to all rebels inside and outside the prison walls! The struggle for liberation continues!