Crime Watch

CRIME WATCH

October 31, 2006

Man spared prison in accidental killing of his brother in 2005

Antonio Davis, who accidentally killed his brother while playing with a handgun, was spared prison yesterday - a rare outcome in a city fatal shooting case.

Davis' older brother, Tavon "Tay" Lawson, 22, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital after being shot once in the head Feb. 1, 2005. Days later, Davis had the words "R.I.P. TAY" tattooed on the back of his hands. "So I will never forget," he has said.

Davis, now 22, pleaded guilty this February to involuntary manslaughter and a weapons violation, charges that could have netted him a possible 13-year prison term.

He had no criminal record before the shooting, so the state's sentencing guidelines were for three to eight years in prison. Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Phelps asked for a sentence of eight years with all but three suspended.

Phelps acknowledged that Davis "is remorseful and upset about what happened." Still, she said, "His behavior resulted in the death of his brother."

Davis' lawyers asked for probation. "He lost his brother," said attorney Sharon DuBey. "What greater punishment could there be?"

Attorney Anne Marie Gehring said Davis "is living with the ramifications" of his crime. "He'll have that record the rest of his life," she said.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Paul Smith, who has monitored the case for months, called the situation "tragic" and said "the possibility of recurrence is slim to none."

"I am not convinced he constitutes a danger to society," Smith said.

The judge sentenced Davis to four years for the handgun charge and three years for the manslaughter charge, but he suspended the entire prison term.

He put Davis on a three-year supervised probation and ordered him to continue psychotherapy and taking medication for depression.

After, Smith handed down his sentence, Davis walked out of court and embraced his mother and sister.

Said DuBey: "You cannot teach somebody to have a conscience."

Julie Bykowicz

Four Maryland men indicted in separate child porn cases

Prosecutors announced yesterday separate indictments of four Maryland men as part of a new public campaign to shine light on the problem of online exploitation of minors.

"Parents who let their children use the Internet without supervision might just as well drop them off alone on the most dangerous street in the world," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said at a news conference yesterday. "There are monsters on the Internet, and they are ready to pounce the moment your child logs on."

The top federal prosecutor in Maryland spoke with other federal and local law enforcement agents yesterday to outline a local version of Project Safe Childhood, introduced by U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in February.

Unlike the anti-gun Project Exile, which provided $200,000 for new federal prosecutions last year, the new Internet policing initiative does not come with any new funding, according to Rosenstein. Instead, the efforts seeks to coordinate which investigations of child exploitation on the Internet should be brought to the federal courts for prosecution.

A federal grand jury in Baltimore returned four indictments last week, charging four men with receiving or possessing child pornography. One defendant was also charged with sexual exploitation of a minor by persuading the child to produce pornography.

Those charged include James Leonard Watson, 43, of Pasadena. Federal authorities accuse Watson of receiving hundreds of images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Some of the pictures, authorities said, show bestiality, incest, bondage and sadistic treatment involving minors.

Charged in separate cases were Steven Douglass Buckley, 36, of Cordova; Robert Bower Reeves, 43, of Forest Hill; and David Barry Mentzer, 51, of Joppa.

The four men appeared in U.S. District Court yesterday and were ordered held in custody. If convicted, each of the defendants could face a maximum prison sentence of 30 years, and some could face a mandatory minimum of 10 years if convicted of the most serious charges.

Matthew Dolan

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