BALTIMORE (WMAR) — More details are coming in about how a previously convicted felon, who is now accused of murdering a Wicomico County, Maryland sheriff’s deputy, was allowed back on the streets.
In June 2019, then 17-year-old Austin Davidson robbed a Baltimore McDonald’s.
Charging documents say a masked Davidson pointed a gun at a drive-thru worker, and removed the whole cash register drawer with more than $1,100 in it before fleeing.
About two weeks later, Davidson returned to that same McDonald’s. The drive-thru worker, who he pointed the gun at during the robbery, happened to be working again that day.
She immediately recognized Davidson as the robber. It turns out, Davidson used to work at that McDonald’s and the two had formerly been co-workers.
The woman confronted Davidson about why he would point a gun at her, for which he replied “because I can.”
Once it was known that Davidson committed the robbery, other employees at the restaurant grabbed and held him for police.
Officers ended up searching Davidson’s foster home at the time, where they found McDonald’s receipts from the day of the robbery as well as the mask and gloves he was wearing.
In July of 2020, a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge gave Davidson three-years of supervised probation for the robbery.
The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office issued a statement Tuesday, saying prosecutors had sought jail time and it was the judge who decided to sentence Davidson to probation.
“After securing a conviction, prosecutors make a sentence recommendation to a judge, who is responsible for imposing a sentence,” said a State’s Attorney’s Office spokesperson. “The prosecutor secured a conviction and made a sentence recommendation of jail time. The court imposed a sentence of probation before judgment.”
The office made no mention however, of how long their prosecutor recommended that sentence to be.
In a fiery press conference the following day, Wicomico County Sheriff Michael Lewis blamed Hilliard’s death on the “revolving door” of Maryland’s criminal justice system.
“Had he still been incarcerated, where he belonged, our deputy would still be with us here today,” said Lewis.
Governor Larry Hogan echoed those remarks.
“Someone like this should not have been out on the streets,” said Hogan. “Especially the judges in Baltimore City letting people out, the fact that this guy was out with not serving any jail time for an armed robbery is just unacceptable.”
This past session, the Maryland General Assembly failed to enact the Judicial Transparency Act which would have required the state’s Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy to publish and track the sentences imposed by judges for violent offenders.
As of Tuesday Davidson finds himself back in jail, being held without bail on a slew of charges including for first and second-degree murder.
This story was originally published June 14, 2022 by WMAR in Baltimore, an E.W. Scripps Company.