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

Posted at 5:02 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 18:23:19-04

BALTIMORE  — Judicial transparency is an issue coming into question after two separate plea deals were approved by the same judge.

In both cases, the offenders would end up committing violent crimes against law enforcement officers; one of those assaults left a Wicomico Sheriffs deputy dead while the other put a Baltimore Police Officer in Shock Trauma.

The outrage surrounding repeat offenders being let out on the streets to do more harm echoes from among those on the front lines of the crime fight.

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

“Frankly an individual who had no business being out, who should've still been behind bars,” said Mayor Scott in Wednesday’s press conference.

That day, 36-year-old Joseph Daniel Black was arrested after injuring Sergeant Kenneth Ramberg in a hit-and-run where he dragged the officer 2 blocks, sending him to the hospital with life-threatening-injures.

READ MORE: Driver accused of dragging BPD sergeant arrested following standoff

Before that incident, Baltimore Police Department’s commissioner Michael Harrison said, "Black has been arrested at least 19 times as an adult with little or no regard for consequence."

He reported Black had multiple arrests for violent crime including attempted murder, assault and weapons charges and he was on probation.

Similar outrage flowing from Wicomico County involving another repeat violent offender.

“This is the man responsible of a felony murder of a Wicomico County Sheriff Deputy. Probation before judgement for armed robbery with a handgun,” said Sheriff Michael Lewis just weeks ago.

Earlier this month, Deputy First Class Glenn Hilliard was shot and killed during his attempt to arrest Austin Davidson.

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

He was wanted on felony warrants in multiple jurisdictions for burglary, theft and gun charges.

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby says her office recommended Davidson receive a 10-year suspended sentence with all but 13 months in jail; but, resulted in a different outcome prompting these questions from prosecutors.

“Why the court imposed a probation before judgement, which is not a conviction, how and why he wasn’t picked up when he violated probation, how he was able to be released when he committed a slew of other crimes in other jurisdictions,” questioned Mosby.

They’re answers only Baltimore City Judge Melissa Phinn can answer.

The judge ordered supervised probations for Austin Davidson, who was arrested for killing deputy Hilliard and Joseph Black, accused of dragging a Baltimore City police officer for two blocks on Tuesday, according to court documents.

"You're pointing out one judge with these two awful cases and I think it's an example of why we need more transparency,” said Maryland State Senator Justin Ready.

Ready sponsored the Judicial Transparency Act that initially aimed to put individual judges and their records on display.

"What we’re seeing time and again and its happening a lot in Baltimore is just a revolving door of these very light sentences, a lot of time served and suspended sentences and so what we wanted to do was make sure we have the record for every judge so that people know,” said Ready.

The Judicial Transparency Act he says got watered down in the general assembly to where the records of jurisdictions as a whole are openly available, but not judges particularly.

That's why he calls it an issue worth revisiting in the next legislative session..

"I hope that it will motivate people to want to come back next session and really add some teeth to the transparency act that passed. That’s my hope. We’ll see,” said Ready.