Skip to main content

After losing chairmanship, Sen. Darius Brown removed from committee entirely due to arrest


play
Show Caption

After losing his chairmanship of a high-profile committee in the wake of an arrest, Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, has now been removed from the committee entirely.

In a statement on Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola, D-Newark, said that he removed Brown from the Senate Judiciary Committee last month as Democrats wait for the outcome of his charges.

Sokola cited concerns over the committee dealing directly with criminal justice legislation.

"After considerable discussion, I decided this step is necessary to avoid any potential distractions or conflicts of interest for either Senator Brown or his colleagues on the Committee as they consider multiple bills dealing directly with the courts, law enforcement and the Delaware Department of Justice," Sokola said.

Delaware State Police said Brown, a former Wilmington city councilman, punched an acquaintance and threw a glass of water at Taverna Rustic Italian Restaurant in Talleyville last month.

Brown was charged with offensive touching and disorderly conduct, which are both misdemeanors.

Shortly after his arrest, Sokola stripped Brown of his leadership role over the Judiciary Committee. At the time, Brown called the development "a distraction from the progress that has been made."

Brown did not respond directly to the Senate's decision, but in a text message to a reporter, he sent the link to a Delaware Online/The News Journal article in 2017 about a plea agreement by Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, over a felony gun charge. The Republican was arrested after a Transportation Security Administration agent found a loaded handgun in his carry-on bag at a Maryland airport.

It did not appear that Pettyjohn was stripped of his legislative roles at the time.

Brown's removal is also a starkly different punishment than the one given to Rep. Andria Bennett, D-Dover, who in December was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor third-degree assault, allegedly against her husband, after police responded to a report of a dispute.

Bennett's charges were dropped in February — just a few weeks into the legislative session — at her husband's request, according to court documents. Bennett, who is the daughter of former Rep. John Viola and wife of former Rep. Brad Bennett, did not face repercussions as a lawmaker such as losing a committee assignment.

Delaware State Police issued a news release about Brown's arrest that included his mugshot. They never issued a release about Bennett's.

Brown's removal from the committee comes in the final three weeks of the legislative session, just as the lawmaking season reaches its peak. Within that time, the General Assembly has 11 days of debates to wrap up their work for the year by their June 30 deadline.

Democrats want to quickly pass bills that Brown has helped spearhead, including ones to mandate body cameras for police officers and automate the expungement process.

Brown was elected to the General Assembly in 2018 as the District 2 senator. Since then, he has been one of the Statehouse's champions of criminal justice reform and racial equity.

INCONSISTENT PUNISHMENTS: House leadership silent on inconsistent punishments after arrests of Sen. Brown, Rep. Bennett

CHANGES TO POLICING LAWS: Democrats in Delaware propose reforms to Bill of Rights, create civilian review boards

Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or sgamard@delawareonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.