DOVER, Del. (AP) — A Delaware judge refused on Friday to reduce the prison sentence of a habitual criminal who made headlines after being kicked in the face by a police officer in 2013.
Lateef Dickerson failed to demonstrate any "extraordinary circumstances” that would warrant consideration of his request, Superior Court Judge Paul Wallace ruled. Wallace also noted that Dickerson had previously filed an unsuccessful application for sentence reduction, and that court rules prohibit consideration of repetitive requests.
Finally, the judge noted that he has no authority to reduce the mandatory portion of any statutory minimum sentence.
Dickerson argued that his incarceration during the coronavirus epidemic amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment.” He also said he has served most of a 10-year sentence on gun charges and no longer poses a threat to the public. Dickerson also claimed that his participation in various prison programs showed his “complete rehabilitation.”
Dickerson was indicted in 2014 on two counts of possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, two counts of receiving a stolen firearm, and conspiracy. He pleaded guilty in April 2016 to one count each on the firearm charges and conspiracy. A judge declared Dickerson a habitual offender and sentenced him to 10 years on the gun possession charge, the minimum sentence that could be imposed given his habitual offender status and prior convictions for more than two violent felonies.
Prosecutors said the guns were stolen during a burglary on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and later stored in a shed in Middletown. They agreed to drop several charges in two other cases in which Dickerson was accused of assaulting and choking his former girlfriend and assaulting another woman at a Middletown apartment complex in 2015.
Later in 2015, Dickerson received $300,000 to settle a lawsuit filed on his behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union against the city of Dover and police officer Thomas Webster IV. The lawsuit stemmed from a 2013 incident in which he suffered a broken jaw when he was kicked by Webster.
Webster and another officer confronted Dickerson while responding to a report of a large fight at a gas station and a man armed with a gun.
Webster said he feared for his safety and the safety of others because officers were told Dickerson had a gun and because he was slow to comply with repeated commands to get on the ground. Webster also testified that he did not mean to kick Dickerson in the head but was aiming for his upper body.
Webster was acquitted of assault in a December 2015 trial. Dover officials agreed shortly thereafter to pay him $230,000 in exchange for his immediate resignation.
Just days after the settlement in his lawsuit was finalized, Dickerson and two other men were arrested in January 2016 after a traffic stop in Newark. Police found a .32-caliber revolver in a bag on the rear seat of the car. All three were charged with carrying a concealed deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a person prohibited. Dickerson also was ordered held on outstanding warrants by Middletown police charging him with burglary and failing to register as a sex offender. Prosecutors dropped all those charges in April 2016 when Dickerson pleaded guilty to the gun crime for which he is now behind bars, citing either insufficient evidence or victim/witness issues.
Webster, meanwhile, was hired as a police officer in Greensboro, Maryland, in 2018. He lost his police certification the following year amid questions about failing to disclose nearly 30 use-of-force reports involving his time in Dover. The issue surfaced after the death of 19-year-old Anton Black following a struggle with Webster and two other Maryland police officers in 2018.
Webster confronted Black while responding to a 911 call about a man dragging a boy down a street and a possible abduction. After being told to put his hands behind his back, Black ran away and locked himself inside a car outside his family’s home. An officer broke the window and shocked Black with a Taser before Black got out and struggled with three police officers and a civilian. After being handcuffed, Black became unresponsive.
A medical examiner concluded that Black suffered sudden cardiac death due to a congenital heart condition, with bipolar disorder and stress from the struggle with police officers contributing to his accidental death.
Black’s family has filed a federal lawsuit accusing police of killing him and medical examiners of engaging in a cover-up to protect the officers.