Delaware Today magazine: Tales From the Court, strange, bizarre cases from Delaware courtrooms

Delaware has hosted some of the most scandalous and salacious legal cases in the country. From Tom Capano to a pedophilic pediatrician, the state has had more than its share of headline-stealing court battles. While those tales garner most of the ink, the First State has featured a variety of other interesting litigations. Funny, embarrassing, intriguing or just plain odd, the following are some of the most interesting cases to grace the dockets in the past few years.



(page 2 of 4)

Illustration by Pat KinsellaSilent Movie

Go back to Oct. 12, 2007, when gas was $2.77 a gallon, a $20 bill bought two movie tickets and a box of candy. Now picture a white theater manager who makes a room full of African-American moviegoers feel like second-class citizens.

It was opening night of “Why Did I Get Married?” starring Janet Jackson and Jill Scott. Hundreds gathered at Carmike Cinemas in Dover, eager to see Tyler Perry’s newest flick. At the time, Perry’s movies drew a predominantly middle-aged African-American audience, and this one was no exception. Carmike dedicated three of its 14 screens to airing the movie, with the largest room at the cinema—a 130-seat arena—selling out well before screening time.

The capacity crowd was watching patiently the previews that informed them about movie etiquette and snack bar options, when manager David Stewart entered the largest theater. He made his way to the front and reminded the audience members to turn off their phones, refrain from talking during the movie, and to not get up and walk around after the movie commenced. Then he left.

A murmur built slowly until the noise in the theater was almost deafening, recalls William McCulley, who attended the showing with his wife, Sonji.

“Everyone looked around and was shocked,” he recalls. “This never happens at any other movie. Why would he need to tell us to be quiet? I had been going to movies in the area for years and I had never seen anything like it. I never felt like that before.”

News quickly reached Stewart about how his speech was taken, and he returned to the theater to apologize. He even stood outside the exit of the theater after the movie finished, shaking everyone’s hands and wishing them a good night. That didn’t change much. The crowd was still upset. A white man asked a group of middle-aged African-Americans to behave themselves. The damage was done.

A few minutes after Stewart left the theater, Juana Fuentes-Bowles, then-director of the Delaware Human Relations Division, who was in the audience, asked people to provide their information if they felt offended and she would contact them. McCulley, his wife, and 21 others signed on and filed a complaint with the State Human Relations Committee, arguing that the incident violated civil rights laws and created a situation that was discriminatory based on race.

The State Human Relations Committee agreed with the opinion and awarded damages of $1,500 per person to those who filed the complaint, as well as about $20,000 in other fees to be paid by the theater chain.

In an appeal, Stewart and Carmike argued that addresses like the one given had been made the week before to a predominantly white audience gathered to view “Halloween,” but there were no other instances on record when this occurred. At the time, there was no written policy dictating whether managers would address audiences, or whether they would allow the pre-movie trailers do the work for them.

On July 6, 2010, the Superior Court overturned the committee’s ruling, stating that the verbal reminder might have been unneeded, but that the theater and Stewart were not violating civil rights. The courts decided that the speech was directed at the entire theater-going crowd, regardless of skin color. That ruling was upheld Feb. 17, 2011, in the Delaware Supreme Court.

The final decision was a painful blow to William McCulley, but not an unexpected one. The ruling changed. His feelings haven’t.

“It’s just kind of crazy. That stuff just doesn’t happen,” he says, adding that was the only movie he has attended that featured a personal courtesy reminder.

“I’m sure [Stewart] felt uncomfortable addressing us—he seemed it,” says McCulley. “But you could tell he knew he was wrong. Why else would he be waiting outside the doors and shaking everyone’s hands?”

Stewart has since moved back to the Olean Carmike Theater, about an hour south of Buffalo, N.Y. He’s still employed by the company and won’t comment further. 

 

case 3: Funeral Fit for a King

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January 2017

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

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Sports Card & Collectible Show at Aetna Fire Hall on Jan. 22—sign up now! -Sports Cards McFarlane Figures Comic Books Non-Sports cards Wrestling Items Vintage Starting...

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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

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Cinema Art Theater
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Belly Dance Classes with Zahra Beginner & intermediate classes open to teens and adults Sundays in January starting Jan 8th Beginner: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Intermediate: 1 - 2 p.m (must get...

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

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OperaDelaware Studio
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Guest speakers Patty Dailey-Lewis, executive director of the Beau Biden Foundation, and Delaware Family Court commissioner Loretta Young will discuss how participation in social media can too...

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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

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The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmers Market Nov 8, 2016 - April 11, 2017  11 am- 2 pm 25 vendors Location:  East Coast Garden Center 30366 Cordrey Rd Millsboro, DE 19966 302-945-3489

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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmer's Marke 25 vendors

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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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A four-week series of ballroom dancing classes taught by teachers from the BlueBallroom. Tuesdays starting Jan. 10. Classes are $30 a lesson for Non-Members. Non-Member slots are limited. For...

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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

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Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

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MARC BROUSSARD In 2004, Marc Broussard, then a precocious 22-year-old singer/songwriter, released his major-label debut; he called it Carencro, after the Louisiana town where he was born and...

Cost: $22 SRO- $32 SEATED

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Tutto Fresco has live entertainment every Friday night from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Call for details. http://tuttofrescode.com/

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

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Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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January 28 – Saturday – 1 to 4 p.m. Science Saturday – Truss Me, You Won’t Fall! Become an engineer for the day. Design a bridge to hold as much weight as possible....

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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GRILLED CHEESE AND CRAFT BEER TASTING We have taken two of the best things on earth and paired them together – Grilled Cheese and Craft Beer – and paired them together in unexpected and...

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World Cafe Live Wilmington
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Saturday, January 28, 2017 at  7:30 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 763 Valley Forge Rd, Wayne, PA 19087 Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3 pm at Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square...

Cost: Tickets are $25 online, and $30 at the door. Student tickets $10 at the door.

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Fan favorite, Dick Smith, returns to the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society concert stage on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 for a show that is sure to bring the house down! Dick Smith has been a...

Cost: $15 Adults; $10 Students

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John Dickinson High School Auditorium
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The Dickinson Theatre Organ Society presents Dick Smith. For tickets, click here: http://www.dtoskimball.org/events-tickets/ticket-information/ For further information, please call us at...

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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Cost: $12-$20

Where:
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10 West Lea Blvd.
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MOTHERSHIP Mothership is the area's premier Led Zeppelin Tribute show. Composed of seasoned, professional musicians Mario Padovani - vocals, keyboards, Frank Ginocchio - drums, Chris Julian -...

Cost: 15

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World Cafe Live Wilmington
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