Prosecutors drop case against defendant in fatal street feud
DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware judge on Tuesday granted a motion by federal prosecutors to dismiss an indictment against a man accused of participating in a street feud involving a drug kingpin that resulted in the kidnapping and slaying of a woman and the shooting of a 6-year-old boy.
The ruling came exactly one week after a scheduled hearing at which Maurice Cooper was to enter a guilty plea. But Cooper, who was acting as his own lawyer, changed his mind, and prosecutors filed a motion on Monday to dismiss the case.
Prosecutors noted that Cooper, 41, is already serving a 75-year sentence for state court convictions after being arrested in January 2018 on heroin-trafficking and gun charges. They said he would not be released from prison until he is nearly 100 years old, if not older. Dismissing the indictment would “preserve the government’s limited resources, prevent the unnecessary expenditure of the court’s time and resources, and allow the victims and their families to put this horrid chapter of their lives behind them,” they added.
Judge Joshua Wolson granted the motion. He said dismissing the charges would have “little practical effect” and noted that all five of Cooper’s co-defendants have pleaded guilty.
Cooper, who was initially indicted in October 2018, was charged with stalking, kidnapping and other charges. He was among several men tied to drug kingpin Dwayne White who had engaged in a yearslong feud with a former affiliate, Markevis Stanford. One of Cooper’s co-defendants, Ryan Bacon, had described Stanford in rap songs as a “rat.”
As the feud escalated in 2017, Stanford allegedly hired a friend for $10,000 to kill Bacon, but the plot failed, prosecutors said.
The defendants later began tracking Stanford’s girlfriend, Keyonna Perkins, in an attempt to locate and kill him, the prosecutors said. On June 6, 2017, Dion Oliver seized Perkins at gunpoint and took her cellphone. The defendants later found Stanford walking along a highway and shot at him, but he escaped unharmed.
A couple of hours later, Oliver and Michael Pritchett saw Stanford get into a car in New Castle and followed him as he rode to Wilmington. As Stanford got out of the car, Oliver shot at him several times from Pritchett’s truck. Stanford was not hit, but a bullet struck 6-year-old Jashown Banner in the head while he was sitting in the back seat of his mother’s vehicle. The boy was left permanently disabled.
That same day, Perkins was blindfolded and thrown into the trunk of a car, then driven by Bacon and Dontae Sykes to Elkton, Maryland, where she was killed, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors say White, the drug kingpin, later tried to bribe Jashown’s family, offering them $20,000 to deny that Pritchett was involved in the boy’s shooting.
White was sentenced in state court in 2019 to more than 45 years in prison after being convicted of 21 felonies, including racketeering, drug dealing, conspiracy and money laundering.
Sykes pleaded guilty in federal court in January 2020 to conspiracy, stalking, using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, and kidnapping resulting in death. The latter offense is punishable by death and carries a mandatory life sentence.
Sykes is scheduled to be sentenced July 11. The other co-defendants face sentencing on May 27.
Oliver and Pritchett pleaded guilty on Jan. 31 to conspiracy to commit kidnapping, stalking and other charges. The pleas came on the same day their trial was to start. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop kidnapping charges and stipulated to prison sentences of 27 1/2 years for Oliver and 25 years for Pritchett. The judge is awaiting presentencing reports before approving the deals.
Bacon pleaded guilty in December to the same charges as Oliver and Pritchett did, with a stipulated sentence of 30 years. The other co-defendant, Teres Tinnin, pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to stalk and stalking.
Sykes’ girlfriend, Jaclyn McCain, faces sentencing May 10 after pleading guilty in 2018 to four counts of lying to FBI agents about providing the vehicle that was used to take Perkins to Maryland, and one count of obstructing the investigation into her death.