Some officials in New York have expressed dismay over outgoing President Donald Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of a drug kingpin convicted to life in prison for his role in killing an upstate police officer.
On his way out of the Oval Office, Trump issued pardons to more than 100 convicted criminals, including Jamie A. Davidson, who was sentenced to life for the murder of Syracuse police officer Wallie Howard Jr. nearly three decades ago.
Davidson reportedly was the leader of a cocaine ring that operated upstate. One of his associates Robert “Bam Bam” Lawrence shot and killed Howard as they robbed him during a controlled drug sale with a third party.
At the time of the murder, Davidson was not at the scene, but he, along with several others in the cocaine ring were sentenced to life in prison in 1993 on murder and other drug-related charges.
Following the pardon, the White House released a statement saying that the move was supported by family and friends, noting that "witnesses who testified against Mr. Davidson later recanted their testimony in sworn affidavits and further attested that Mr. Davidson had no involvement."
The White House made note that Davidson has mentored and tutored more than 1,000 prisoners to help them receive their GED certifications.
“Although Mr. Davidson has been incarcerated for nearly 29 years, the admitted shooter has already been released from prison,” the statement says. “Following the commutation of his sentence, Mr. Davidson will continue legal efforts to clear his name. Mr. Davidson has earned praise from prison officials for his dedication to helping others.”
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The outcry from New York officials was swift following the announcement regarding Davidson, with many questioning the move.
“During a time when police are under such scrutiny, this is another blow to the law enforcement profession,” Syracuse Police Union President Joseph Moran said in a statement.
“The commutation of Davidson, along with the release of Robert ‘Bam Bam' Lawrence, has reopened wounds at SPD and for the Howard family. We are deeply saddened by this decision.”
Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner told CNYCentral that the department “respects the president's right to pardon individuals for their crimes. However, we are very disappointed (Davidson] has now received a commutation of his sentence.
“My heart goes out to the Howard family, and the men and women of SPD who have suffered a significant loss.”
Republican Congressman John Katko, a former federal prosecutor also condemned the former president’s decision regarding Davidson.
“Jaime Davidson was found guilty of orchestrating the brutal murder of Wallie Howard, a decorated Central New York police officer,” Katko said to Syracuse.com. “I completely disagree with the president’s decision to commute the sentence for this heinous crime. Davidson is a criminal who should have served out his life sentence.”
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick added: “Davidson is not (a worthy candidate for sentence commutation. It’s stunning. I hope somebody in the White House at least reached out to John Duncan or John Katko to get the full picture of his role in Wallie’s death.”
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