Theft charge against Columbia County public defender dismissed

Davis

 

Felony theft charges against a local lawyer have been dropped after she wrote an apology letter to the victim, officials said Thursday.

Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman said he had signed off on dismissing a warrant against Alexia D. Davis in “April or May” but wasn’t certain of the exact date.

“I considered all facts of the case, and in the end I thought it was best to be dismissed,” Altman said.

Davis, an attorney for the Office of the Public Defender in Augusta, was charged with theft of lost or mislaid property in February 2013 after an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a $10,000 diamond ring found outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant near Grovetown.

Jane Prater, of Thomson, told the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office she lost the ring at the restaurant that Feb. 7. That same day, according to a sheriff’s office investigative file, a Cracker Barrel employee told supervisors that a woman had come into the restaurant to inquire whether someone had lost a ring.

The woman did not identify herself or show the ring to the employee, but “made a comment that it would be reported to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office,” according to Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.

In an attempt to identify the woman, authorities released restaurant surveillance video on Feb. 19 to local media. The same day, nearly two weeks after the ring was lost, Davis turned it over to sheriff’s deputies.

Investigators identified the woman in the video as Katrell Nash, who also is an attorney for the public defender’s office.

Nash and Davis met with sheriff’s Sgt. James Moss at the Cracker Barrel on Feb. 19. Moss reported that Davis insisted that the sheriff’s office “have the news stop running the story about the ring being stolen” because Nash was in the surveillance video.

Davis said she had found the ring in the parking lot, but both women refused to give formal statements, Moss said.

Later, when she was interviewed by sheriff’s Investigator T.R. Digsby, Nash told police that Davis had agreed she would turn the ring over to Richmond County authorities the day it was found. Nash said she thought no more of it until she saw an image of herself on television labeled “Ring Thief” on Feb. 19.

“When she saw herself on the news she became upset and called Davis, which is when she learned Davis still had the ring,” Digsby’s report said.

When Davis was interviewed by Digsby, she could not explain why she failed to turn in the ring, but “wished she had taken” steps to find the owner. She also admitted to taking the ring to Windsor Gold Buying Center on Wrightsboro Road to have it evaluated two days after she found it. She was offered $2,000 for the ring, according to the report.

While at Windsor, Davis had a conversation with a uniformed Richmond County deputy on special duty but did not mention the ring, the report said.

Based on the circumstances, Digsby decided to seek a warrant for theft of lost or mislaid property, a felony. Digsby said he thought she had intended to keep the ring and had made no effort to find the owner.

“Had she taken the simplest most obvious steps to get the ring back to the owner, it would have been successful. Instead, she did nothing,” Digsby’s report said.

After Davis’ arrest, Digsby asked her whether she was familiar with the charge against her or whether she had represented anyone charged with the same crime.

“I haven’t, I haven’t,” she told the investigator, according to the report.

Digsby later determined Davis had represented defendants in two separate cases who had been charged with theft of lost or mislaid property, most recently in 2012 in which she had negotiated a plea, the report said.

In his report, Digsby said he thought Davis should be charged with another felony, false statements and writings, based on her response to his questioning.

“I believe it is appropriate that she be indicted for this felony which she knowingly and willfully committed in an effort to avoid arrest ...” his report said.

Davis, however, was not indicted on any charge. After her arrest, the case was transferred to the Middle Judicial Circuit because Augusta District Attorney Ashley Wright recused herself to avoid a conflict of interest.

Altman said Thursday he was familiar with the facts of the case and decided on dismissal after meeting with Davis and determined she had exhibited the proper attitude about what she had done.

“She was remorseful for all the errors in judgment she had made,” he said. “She didn’t get any special treatment.”

Davis, when reached by phone Thursday, said she “would not be making any statements” on the case.

Davis did, however, make one statement, in a letter to Prater apologizing for “any anxiety and inconvenience” she had caused while in possession of the woman’s “family heirloom.”

“The good thing from all of this is that I have learned a valuable lesson about finding other people’s belongings, and so have other people,” Davis wrote. “Turning it in to the Sheriff’s Office rather than holding on to it until someone came forward would have alleviated this whole situation.”

Rally prays for attorney charged with theft of lost diamond ring
Lawyer charged with not returning diamond ring found in parking lot
Apology letter from Alexia D. Davis (.pdf)

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