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Baltimore judge granted deal to accused Wicomico deputy killer, suspect who injured officer

Austin Davidson and Joseph Black released on supervised probation before violent crimes
Posted at 6:17 PM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 17:47:06-04

BALTIMORE — The same Baltimore City judge made a plea deal with previously convicted felons who came back to commit violent crimes while out of jail.

Judge Melissa Phinn previously ordered supervised probations for Austin Davidson, who was arrested for killing a Wicomico County deputy on June 12, and Joseph Black, accused of dragging a Baltimore City police officer for two blocks on Tuesday, according to court documents.

RELATED: Plea deals resulting in officers' assault draws judicial transparency back into question

Judge Phinn has been serving as the Associate Judge of Baltimire City Circuit County, 8th Judicial Court since 2013.

Judge Phinn sentenced Austin Davidson to three years supervised probation on July 29, 2020 after he pleaded guilty to armed robbery in Baltimore.

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The Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office issued a statement, 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 however recommended a suspended 10-year sentence that would have only kept Davidson behind bars for 13-months, meaning he would have still been out on the street the night of June 12, 2022, when he allegedly shot and killed Wicomico County deputy Glenn Hilliard.

WMAR-2 News learned Judge Phinn, sentenced Joseph Black to two years of supervised probation after pleading guilty to firearm possession with a felony conviction in November 4, 2021. Black was sentenced to 15 years in jail with all but nearly 14 years of it suspended for a 2020 firearm possession charge.

He ultimately served only 20 months behind bars including time served, before the judge let him out.

MORE: How a previously convicted felon returned to the streets and allegedly killed a deputy

Black was arrested Tuesday after he allegedly dragged a Baltimore Police Officer two blocks during a traffic stop in Northwest Baltimore.

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said Black since confessed to the crime and has been arrested at least 19 times in the past, for charges including attempted murder. He was reportedly on probation when this latest incident occurred.

MORE: Driver accused of dragging BPD sergeant arrested following standoff

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Baltimore Police Officer in shock trauma after being dragged for blocks

The officer was rushed to Shock Trauma.

"We have a problem in the City of Baltimore, we have to break down these barriers of mistrust," Marilyn Mosby said during press conference Wednesday. "Unfortunately, when we don't have cooperative witnesses or inconsistent witnesses we usually can't prosecute a case. So that's the reason why that attempted murder charge wasn't even called in Mr. Black's case. The second instance with Mr. Black, this is actually a situation when Mr. Black was defending himself from being shot at. So again it was a conviction but we have to take certain circumstances into account when recommending to a judge a sentence."

"Frankly an individual who had no business being out who should have still been behind bars was out wreaking havoc on the streets of Baltimore yet again," said Mayor Brandon Scott. "Imagine if your this officer's family or the other victims of the previous crimes and you see this same individual, what impact that's gonna have on you and your community, there is no reason why someone with multiple arrests for second degree attempted murder and almost 20 charges in connection with violent crimes was even granted parole, there's no excuse for that."

In response to the arrest Mike Mancuso, President of the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, pinned blame on Harrison, Scott, and Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

"Their policies, rhetoric, and pandering to the criminal element has caused this epidemic of violence and lawlessness," said Mancuso.

Judge Phinn also agreed to another high-profile plea deal in her courtroom.

MORE: Wicomico Sheriff blames deputy's death on "revolving door" of Maryland's criminal justice system

Luther Trent Moody, who was accused of setting a home on fire with his ex-girlfriend and two other people still inside, was arrested in June of 2021.

He agreed to a plea deal that required him to spend less than six months in jail.

In court documents, federal prosecutors cite an interview Trent did with a Baltimore news outlet after he'd been released from prison.

During that interview Trent admitted to starting the fire, and compared his relationship with the victim to Romeo and Juliet, saying "If I can’t have her, nobody can, or at least nobody in Baltimore.”

Trent also addressed the lenient sentence he received in state court, saying he should "not be out right now," and that it sent the wrong message to would-be criminals.

Judge Phinn was serving court on that case.