Lawyer stabbed by ex-client in downtown Wilmington but city mum on attack

Public defender Timothy Weiler was stabbed by a former client Friday as he approached the Grand Opera House in Wilmington’s central business district. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Public defender Timothy Weiler was stabbed by a former client Friday as he approached the Grand Opera House in Wilmington’s central business district. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Delaware public defender Timothy Weiler was outside Wilmington’s Grand Opera House on Friday afternoon when someone approached him from behind.

He felt a sharp pain in his back and thought he’d been punched.

“That’s from me to you,’’ the attacker called, and ran away, recalled Weiler.

Weiler actually had been stabbed — not punched — and his alleged assailant was a former legal client police identified as 58-year-old Timothy Silvil.

Weiler told WHYY he didn’t realize their former association until a fellow attorney reminded him that Weiler had represented the man in a 2006 arson case. Weiler had no recollection about the case, he told WHYY.

Attorney Timothy Weiler (Courtesy of Timothy Weiler)

Weiler said he suffered a one-inch wound between his shoulder and his spine that needed two stitches to close. He was en route to the opera house to inquire about tickets to a show.

WHYY didn’t learn about the bold downtown attack at 1:15 p.m. outside one of Wilmington’s treasured entertainment venues from police, however. That’s because city officials did not issue a news release about the crime.

Instead a Wilmington lawyer who had heard about the crime alerted a WHYY reporter and wondered why “there had been zero press coverage of this.”

Wilmington police spokesman David Karas gave some details about the attack when WHYY asked but he would not provide an explanation Wednesday about why there was no release about the stabbing in the central business district.

It’s routine for police to issue news releases about stabbings and shootings in other parts of the city, which has been plagued by violence in recent years.

The opera house is located in the 800 block of Market Street, and is usually busy with office workers and others eating lunch, strolling or shopping at that time of the afternoon.

Weiler himself was reluctant to discuss the matter. “I didn’t want this to be a big thing, and kind of bring down Wilmington’s image,’’ he said. “I see they are really trying hard to bring the city around.”

The number of shooting incidents in Wilmington fell nearly 60 percent in 2018 from 2017, and officials have showcased that statistic and others as part of their narrative that the city is safer today.

Silvil was charged with second-degree assault, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony and carrying a concealed deadly weapon – a silver two-inch pocket knife, court records showed. He is being held in lieu of $52,000 secured bail.

In the 2006 arson case handled by Weiler, Silvil took a plea deal to felony reckless endangering. He also has other felony convictions — for second-degree assault, escape after conviction, carrying a concealed deadly weapon and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, as well as “a host of misdemeanor convictions,’’ said Mat Marshall, spokesman for Attorney General Kathy Jennings.

Weiler downplayed the fact that a former client had attacked him 13 years after the court proceedings, saying he remembers a defendant attacking another public defender in the courtroom years ago and has read about other such incidents across the country.

Outside the Grand Opera House on Wednesday, some people said the city should have informed the public about the stabbing.

“That does seem kind of surprising, especially in such a highly populated area,” said Mandy Bartkowski, who works at the city courthouse a few blocks away and called the lawyer’s stabbing “crazy.”

A man who would not give his name but was relaxing at a restaurant table next the opera house said the area is generally well protected by police and private security guards. He chastised the city for being mum about the incident.

“You should alert the public [about] what’s happening,’’ he said, “so everybody could be aware and keep their eyes open on situations like that.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.