DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Democratic state senator who has helped lead criminal justice reform efforts in the Delaware General Assembly was acquitted on domestic violence charges Thursday.

A New Castle County jury found Darius J. Brown, 40, not guilty of offensive touching and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. The charges stemmed from a May 2021 altercation at a Wilmington restaurant.

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A 44-year-old woman told officers that Brown, a Wilmington Democrat, 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.

The prosecution’s case relied mostly on the woman’s testimony. Video surveillance footage showed Brown approaching the woman’s side of the table but did not capture the alleged incident. Witnesses testified that they heard the glass shatter and saw Brown leave the restaurant, and that the woman appeared distraught.

Prosecutors also introduced evidence that Brown sent the woman a dozen roses the next day with a card proclaiming his love for her, suggesting that it was proof of a guilty conscience.

Brown did not testify. His lawyer argued that the woman lied to embarrass him.

Following the incident, Brown, a former chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, was removed from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he had chaired. Four months later, he was named executive director of the Wilmington HOPE Commission, a group that works to reduce recidivism among criminal offenders and help them integrate back into the community.

In November, Brown was removed from his seat on the legislature’s joint capital budget committee after being accused of verbally abusing a female state House member. Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, a New Castle Democrat, complained that Brown became verbally abusive toward her after a ceremony at which Democratic Gov. John Carney signed several criminal justice reform bills into law.

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Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth Lockman, a Wilmington Democrat who chairs the Rules and Ethics Committee, subsequently announced that she would convene the panel to adopt procedures for investigating Brown’s conduct and making any recommendations to the full Senate. The panel, which has not met in 35 years, is expected to hold an initial meeting in January.

Senate President Pro Tem David Sokola issued a statement Thursday noting that, despite Brown’s acquittal, he has been involved in “multiple confrontations in public spaces over the last year, regardless of whether that behavior rose to the level of criminal conduct.”

“As elected representatives of the people we serve, I believe we owe it to Delawareans to hold ourselves to a higher level of accountability and conduct,” Sokola said.

Brown has a history of noncompliance with the law, including pleading guilty to resisting arrest in 2009 and pleading 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.

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