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State senator accused of verbally abusing female lawmaker

November 17, 2021 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Democratic lawmaker who lost his chairmanship and membership on the state Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year after being arrested on domestic violence charges was removed from another committee post Wednesday after being accused of verbally abusing a female state House member.

Darius Brown of Wilmington was removed from his seat on the legislature’s joint capital budget committee, Senate President Pro Tem David Sokola said in a prepared statement. Sokola also said he asked Brown to enroll in an anger management course.

“Verbal abuse is abuse, full stop, and it cannot go unpunished,” said Sokola, D-Newark.

Brown did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The move came after Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, a New Castle Democrat, complained that Brown became verbally abusive toward her after a Nov. 8 ceremony at which Gov. John Carney signed several criminal justice reform bills into law.

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“He was aggressively rude toward me and stood in very close proximity, angrily yelling profanities in my face,” Minor-Brown said in a statement, adding it took place “in full view of many witnesses.”

“The entire encounter was extremely unnerving and unsettling, enough so that I felt compelled to speak up. ... He has displayed a disturbing pattern of behavior toward women, and this is just the latest example,” Minor-Brown added.

Senate Republicans issued a statement expressing concern about an apparent pattern of inappropriate and sometimes violent behavior toward women by Brown. The GOP minority suggested Brown’s behavior should be reviewed by the Rules and Ethics Committee.

“The Delaware Democrat Party has done nothing,” Sen. David Lawson, R-Marydel, said in a separate statement. “Senate leadership has merely given Senator Brown a couple slaps on the wrist. Removal from committees has, apparently, only emboldened this behavior as he knows nothing serious will occur.”

Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth Lockman, who chairs the Ethics Committee, subsequently announced that she would convene the panel in the coming weeks to adopt the procedures for investigating Brown’s conduct and making any recommendations to the full Senate.

Lockman, a Wilmington Democrat, noted that Brown is scheduled to face trial in two weeks on the domestic violence charges.

“Whether or not Senator Brown is found guilty, I believe our committee should review the facts of that case and other accusations of abusive behavior that may not have risen to the level of criminal conduct,” Lockman said in a prepared statement.

Delaware State Police arrested Brown, 40, in May after an altercation at a Wilmington restaurant. A 44-year-old woman told officers that Brown had punched her in the face after they began arguing about a social media post. Brown then got up from the booth where the couple was seated and threw a water glass, which broke into pieces, police said.

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Brown was charged with offensive touching and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. His trial is set to begin Dec. 1, following a final case review next Tuesday.

Despite serving as chair of the Judiciary Committee and his leadership on criminal justice reform, Brown has a history of noncompliance with the law. Brown, who also is former chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, pleaded guilty to resisting arrest in 2009 and pleaded no contest before judgment to offensive touching in 2004.

Brown also has a long history of traffic arrests and convictions, which led a court commissioner, acting on a petition by the attorney general’s office, to recommend in 2007 that he be declared a habitual offender and prohibited from driving for five years.

Nevertheless, Brown was arrested after a traffic stop just over a year later and subsequently convicted of driving while his license was suspended or revoked, the sixth time he had been charged with that offense. Under state law, a habitual offender convicted of operating a motor vehicle while prohibited from doing so faces a mandatory prison sentence of at least 90 days, but Brown was never charged with that specific offense.

After being elected to the state Senate in 2018, Brown, a former Wilmington councilman, failed to report on his required financial disclosure that he owed tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes.