Cops & Courts – December 30, 2022

Assault, Trespassing Arrest

OCEAN CITY — A Washington, D.C. man was arrested last weekend after multiple incidents around the midtown area.

Around 9:35 p.m. last Friday, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officers were dispatched to a hotel at 21st Street for a report of suspicious circumstances. Staff from the hotel advised an intoxicated male had entered an employee-only kitchen area and hid behind an oven while smoking a cigarette. Hotel staff was uncertain where the male suspect had gone, but OCPD officers located a fresh cigarette butt and ash outside a room on the sixth floor and could smell the odor of cigarettes being smoked from within the room, according to police reports.

Officers made contact with an occupant of the room, later identified as Johnny Sorto, 31, of Washington, D.C. Staff identified Sorto as the suspect who had entered the kitchen smoking a cigarette while hiding behind an oven. Hotel staff ultimately evicted Sorto from the hotel for the night and he became aggressive with staff and the officers and wanted to escalate the situation, according to police reports.

About two hours later at 11:25 p.m., OCPD officers were dispatched to a hotel at 17th Street for a report of a male in the lobby who was irate and swearing at staff, according to police reports. The description provided matched the description of Sorto, according to police reports. Sorto had already left the area when OCPD officers arrived at 17th Street.

Officers continued to patrol the area and later observed Sorto walking south in the area of 33rd Street and Coastal Highway. Officers reportedly observed Sorto walk into an amusement part at 29th Street which was well-posted with “no trespassing” signs. The amusement park was also a participant in the OCPD’s Trespass Enforcement Authorization Program (TEAP), which allowed officers do go on the property when it was closed if law enforcement was needed.

OCPD officers entered the park and observed Sorto walking around. Sorto told police he believed the amusement park, which was closed for the winter although it had flashing signs operating, was a 7-Eleven convenience store. He told police he was not from the area and believed the park was a convenience store. He was placed under arrest at that point for trespassing.

According to police reports, the park was closed, but there were flashing billboards along the highway advertising what was in store for the next summer season. Sorto told police he observed the front gate with holiday lights and thought they were beautiful, so he walked inside, according to police reports.

Sorto then began screaming and launched expletives at the arresting officers despite being told to stop screaming and just relax. He reportedly began flailing his body around and kicked his own feet from underneath himself and an officer had to catch him to keep him from falling to the ground.

Sorto then reportedly began screaming “help” to anyone who was in the area, screams that could easily be heard from beyond 50 feet. Sorto then attempted to kick an arresting officer with both of his feet, according to police reports. He was told again to relax but he kept kicking at officers, tensing his body and screaming expletives, according to police reports.

He was ultimately put into a violent prisoner restraint device. While in the booking facility at around 3:30 a.m., Sorto attempted to cover his cell camera with wet toilet paper, according to police reports.

When officers removed the toilet paper, Sorto was still upset and threatened to fight all of the officers involved in the incident. He also threatened to kill all officers involved in the case multiple times, according to police reports. He was ultimately charged with second-degree assault, resisting arrest and trespassing.


Replica Handgun Arrest

OCEAN CITY — A Delaware man was arrested last weekend after a replica handgun was found in his vehicle during a routine traffic stop.

Around midnight last Saturday, an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer patrolling in the downtown area observed a vehicle with an expired registration plate parked in front of an apartment building. The officer stopped and observed a male later identified as Jonathan Wagner, 22, of Seaford, Del., make multiple trips to and from the apartment building to the vehicle. Wagner ultimately entered the vehicle while carrying a brown box and drove toward Philadelphia Avenue.

The officer reportedly followed Wagner’s vehicle when both vehicles made U-turns on Philadelphia Avenue and headed south. The officer noted in the report he was waiting for Wagner to pass him, but the suspect did not pass despite being able to do so without exceeding the speed limit. Wagner did eventually pass the officer, who activated his lights and conducted a traffic stop, according to police reports.

During the traffic stop, Wagner appeared nervous and made furtive movements while the officer asked for his license and registration. He did present his Delaware driver’s license but could not locate the vehicle’s registration. He was issued five traffic warnings for registration-related issues and was told he was free to go.

Before parting ways, however, the officer asked Wagner if he would consent to a search of his vehicle, and he complied. During the search, OCPD officers located in the center console a tan and silver handgun that was readily accessible to the driver. The handgun turned out to be a replica BB gun that appeared to realistic, according to police reports.

Next to the replica handgun, officers located a metal container of loose marijuana, a glass smoking device and a digital scale, according to police reports.

On the front seat was the brown box Wagner was seen carrying when he entered the vehicle. In the box, officers located a glass bong smoking device with a paper towel shoved in the opening to prevent liquid from leaking out, according to police reports. Wagner was arrested and charged with transporting a replica handgun.


Case Forwarded To Circuit Court

OCEAN CITY — A Davidson, Md. man, arrested in October on first-degree assault and other charges after allegedly beating and strangling his girlfriend at a downtown resort hotel before being stopped while crossing the Route 50 Bridge, had his case forwarded to Worcester County Circuit Court last week.

Around 9:55 p.m. on Oct. 29, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officers responded to a hotel at 2nd Street for a reported domestic assault. Upon arrival, the officer located a female victim sitting on a bench outside the hotel. According to police reports, the victim was bleeding from her nose and had a swollen upper lip. All of her clothing was covered in blood and she was fighting back tears while grimacing in pain, according to police reports. The victim told police she believed her shoulder was dislocated.

When asked who had caused her injuries, the victim told police it was her boyfriend, whom she identified only as Benjamin and did not provide a last name. The suspect was later identified as Benjamin Bray, 38, of Davidsonville, Md. The victim reportedly told officers she had been with Bray at a Boardwalk bar and Bray left with her purse and wallet, according to police reports.

The victim reportedly told police she had not seen Bray for about an hour and became upset because he had her belongings, and she couldn’t pay her bar tab. When the couple reconvened at their hotel room, the victim told police she was upset because he had left her at the bar and began cussing out Bray and packing her belongings to leave, according to police reports.

The victim reportedly told police Bray became angry and began beating the [expletive deleted] out of her, first fish-hooking her cheek and then pinning her to the bed and strangling her.

When asked if she feared for her life, the victim told police she did. When asked how long Bray had allegedly strangled her, the victim told police she was not certain, but she nearly blacked out. According to police reports, the victim had multiple abrasions on her throat, corroborating her story. The victim told officers Bray had punched her multiple times prior to strangling her and that she believed she dislocated her shoulder while attempting to get away from him.

The victim gave officers consent to search the hotel room and the officers observed extensive blood spattering on the walls, floor, sheets, pillows and couch. According to police reports, it was clear the victim had been assaulted in various areas of the hotel room.

A short time later, Ocean City Communications advised Maryland State Police troopers had conducted a traffic stop for speeding on the Route 50 bridge and the driver matched the description of the suspect wanted in connection with the assault in the downtown Ocean City hotel room. The MSP trooper had observed Bray run through a red traffic signal and reach speeds of over 60 miles per hour in the 35 miles per hour zone on the bridge.

The OCPD officer responded and placed Bray under arrest. During a search of Bray’s wallet, the officer located two labeled suboxone strips, a scheduled controlled dangerous substance. Bray was not able to provide proof he had a prescription for the suboxone. Bray’s truck was impounded and during an inventory of its contents, officers located a fixed-blade knife in the pocket of a shirt on the front seat, according to police reports.

A background check revealed Bray had been arrested roughly 14 times prior to the Oct. 29 incident. He was previously sentenced to eight years for distributing heroin, oxycodone and possession of a pipe bomb. He also had a conviction in Anne Arundel County for second-degree assault for which he served 136 days.

For the Ocean City incident, Bray was charged with first- and second-degree assault, possession of suboxone and possession of a dangerous weapon. Because of his criminal past and for the safety of the victim, he was ordered to be held without bond. Last week, his case was forwarded to Circuit Court. His trial is tentatively set for May 2.