Ex-inmate acquitted in fatal prison riot back in custody

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DOVER, Del. (AP) — A former prison inmate who was accused of leading a fatal riot at Delaware's maximum-security prison but acquitted on all charges is back behind bars.

Authorities at Howard R. Young prison in Wilmington took custody of 33-year-old Roman Shankaras shortly after 5:30 p.m. Saturday after he was arrested by Wilmington police.

Shankaras is charged with possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person prohibited, possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited, violating probation, and violating an ordinance regarding stopping, standing or parking near a fire hydrant. He remained in custody Sunday, with cash bail set at $10,001, according to Department of Correction officials.

David Karas, a spokesman for Wilmington police, did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails seeking details on Shankaras' arrest.

Shankaras was one of 18 inmates who were charged in the 2017 riot, during which prison guard Steven Floyd was killed. Two other guards were released by inmates after being beaten and tormented. A female counselor was held hostage for nearly 20 hours before tactical teams burst through a wall with a backhoe and rescued her.

Prosecutors described Shankaras as a "mastermind" of the uprising. He was one of 16 inmates charged with murder, assault, kidnapping, conspiracy and riot. Two other inmates, including a convicted killer who served as the prosecution's star witness, avoided murder charges.

But a jury acquitted him on all charges last year after two days of deliberations. The acquittal spared him from a mandatory life sentence. Shankaras, who had completed a seven-year sentence for unrelated riot and robbery charges while awaiting trial for the riot, was released from custody just hours later.

The acquittal of Shankaras followed a series of other trial losses against inmates accused in the riot and prompted prosecutors not to pursue any more convictions.

The only guilty verdicts prosecutors were able to obtain came against two inmates who represented themselves at trial. Self-proclaimed riot leader Dwayne Staats, who was already serving life for murder, was convicted of murder, riot, kidnapping, assault, and conspiracy. Fellow inmate Jarreau Ayers was convicted of riot, kidnapping, assault, and conspiracy.

A third defendant, Kelly Gibbs, killed himself in November 2018, days after pleading guilty to rioting, kidnapping, and conspiracy.

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