WILMINGTON — The trial of a Delaware senator accused of punching a woman in the head while together at a restaurant last year opened Wednesday with her version of events and testimony from employees about what they did and didn’t see.
According to the woman, Darius Brown, struck her with an open fist before leaving Taverna Rustic Italian Restaurant in Wilmington on May 16, 2021. Sen. Brown, 39 at the time and a Democrat representing Wilmington, was later arrested and charged with misdemeanor offensive touching and disorderly conduct, to which he pleaded not guilty.
In his opening statement in the Court of Common Pleas, defense attorney Bill Rhodunda first pointed to restaurant surveillance video that he said “really doesn’t show anything,” doesn’t include audio and only captured Sen. Brown leaving the restaurant. He also pointed to supposedly inconsistent statements from a bartender regarding whether he saw the woman punched during the afternoon in question.
As the trial’s first witness, the woman said her dining experience had been a pleasant time until discussion turned to a Facebook-related issue that she said angered Sen. Brown. The post involved a photo and the woman said she answered a question or two before shutting down that conversation.
The woman said Sen. Brown said he decided to leave and punched her in the head and threw a drink at her before departing. She heard a glass shatter and began to cry, and also shook shattered pieces of glass out of her hair. She said she wasn’t injured and described herself as “stunned,” “embarrassed,” and “upset,” among other emotions.
Though a bartender initially told police he had seen Sen. Brown hit a woman, he testified Wednesday that he actually hadn’t seen a punch, which he also told police in a second interview. He turned toward a booth they occupied upon hearing glass shatter, he said. At that point he said he saw Sen. Brown walking briskly to the exit.
Also, a patron at the bar said he heard glass breaking and turned around to see her pushing back into a booth “in a protective mode I would say” with liquid on her. The man testified he did not see Sen. Brown until he was leaving the booth.
A restaurant manager testified that he heard glass breaking as well, and headed to the booth to check on what happened. Sen. Brown walked past him on his way out of the restaurant, according to the manager.
Surveillance video showed Sen. Brown leaning into the side that the woman was sitting in just before he left.
The woman said that while she used to date Sen. Brown, they were friends at the time and communicated “off and on.” They had known each other for more than 10 years, she said.
Regarding the get-together, she said, “I was having a good time until,” the social media question arose. According to the woman, Sen. Brown accused her of thinking that the issue was “a joke or game,” before exiting the booth and allegedly striking her.
Sen. Brown declined comment at the end of Wednesday’s court session.
Both the state and defense rested their cases at just after 4 p.m., and Chief Judge Carl Danberg scheduled closing arguments to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday.