Judge Says Prosecution Cannot Retry Harper in Kidnapping Case - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Judge Says Prosecution Cannot Retry Harper in Kidnapping Case

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Rondaiges Harper will not face another trial, and is a free man, after the judge's decision. Rondaiges Harper will not face another trial, and is a free man, after the judge's decision.

GEORGETOWN, Del.- Twenty-year-old Rondaiges Harper will not face a second trial, and is free to go in connection with a high-profile case involving four teenagers accused of having stuffed an elderly Delaware woman into the trunk of her own car, leaving her there for days. 

"Double jeopardy precludes prosecution of the conspiracy in the second-degree charge," said Superior Court of Delaware Judge Richard Stokes, in a letter sent to both the defense and the prosecution. 

Harper was one of the four then-teenagers who were accused of kidnapping 89-year-old Margaret E. Smith, stuffing her in the trunk of her own car, and leaving her there for days without food or water. Eventually the teenagers abandoned Smith in an isolated graveyard in Seaford, where she was found by a passerby. 

"I was hollering," said Smith in a past-interview with WBOC. "[I thought] are they crazy?"

All four of the teenagers received convictions for their charges, including Harper, who faced charges for carjacking, kidnapping, and conspiracy. Harper then had his conviction overturned by the state Supreme Court in August, because he was not present when Smith was actually taken, and put in the trunk. The prosecution decided to file new charges shortly after the Supreme Court decision, for first-degree unlawful imprisonment and second-degree conspiracy.

In past interviews, Harper's attorney John Brady explained why he considered this to be double jeopardy. 

"As you recall in trial," he said, "the jury had to consider kidnapping. And one of the lesser offenses that the jury was given was unlawful imprisonment."

Stokes referenced "Monroe v. Delaware," a Supreme Court case, with similar characteristics, as well as the constitution, saying that it "bar(s) the retrial of a defendant when an appellate court overturns a jury's guilty verdict on insufficiency of evidence grounds."

He continued, "double jeopardy attaches both to the greater offense and any lesser offense. Thus the state is precluded from prosecuting defendant on lesser included offense of unlawful imprisonment." 

Harper has already served more than two years in prison, as a result of his first trial.

In September of 2014, Junia McDonald, 14-years old at the time of the incident, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for both carjacking and kidnapping charges. 

In December of 2014, Jackeline Perez, 15-years old at the time of the incident, was sentenced to 16 years in prison as well. She will also be deported to Mexico when she is released.

Later that month, Phillip Brewer, 17-years old at the time of the incident, was the last to be sentenced, facing 12 years in prison, after testifying against the other three defendants. 

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