The assistant public defender here was booked recently for theft of lost or mislaid property after she allegedly found an expensive ring in a restaurant parking lot and failed to turn it in or notify authorities until they released surveillance video of the incident.
Nearly two weeks elapsed between the Feb. 7 find and Davis’ coming forward on Feb. 19.
Again, we don’t know if Davis is guilty of a crime. We’ll let the courts sort that out.
But she certainly shouldn’t be held up as a martyr of some kind, or any paragon of ethics.
A small group of supporters held a prayer rally for Davis on the Augusta courthouse steps Saturday – primarily for the media – as if she were somehow the target of an unfair prosecution.
Supporters have decried the criminal justice system’s attack on Davis’ “impeccable reputation and her motives,” and one supporter lamented, “We really want to know why in the world this young lady is in the predicament she’s in.”
That’s pretty easy.
She didn’t turn the $10,500 ring in to Cracker Barrel for safekeeping. The owner might’ve still been dining. Nor did she alert the sheriff’s office, as an apparent companion reportedly told a restaurant employee would be done.
Let’s be clear about this, in the face of trumped-up indignation: In no way did she do the right thing – until prompted to by the release of the surveillance video.
It isn’t ethical when you’re forced.
We don’t know what Davis was thinking or planning to do. But in any other similar situation, the time lapse between finding the ring and turning it in would make one wonder if the person was simply going to wait and see if anyone claimed it.
In our hearts, when confronted with such a precious lost item, we would know the answer to that question: The owner would want it back. We shouldn’t stay quiet and hope that the owner just couldn’t find us or the place where it was lost.
Again, we don’t know what Davis was thinking. But her odd actions give rise to questioning her motives. That’s no one’s fault but her own.
Ethical actions close the door to such speculation. Turning it in immediately to the restaurant or to police would have left no room for doubt about her intent. And she certainly wouldn’t have been charged with a felony, as she is now.
Imagine her scenario being posed in an ethics exam in law school or anywhere else. Do you really suppose that one of the ethical choices would be to take the ring and not say anything for close to two weeks? Of course not.
In contrast, consider the case of Pat Wesner of Massachusetts: She saw about $11,000 fall out of an armored car recently. She helped pick it up for the company, whose employees weren’t aware it was missing.
She sure could’ve used that cash, too: She has a son in Afghanistan, another in college and another who’s disabled. She also works for a nonprofit, and the latching mechanism on her car’s trunk doesn’t work.
“I can’t even put $1 in my pocket without feeling guilty about it,” she said. “It’s not my money.”
Nor did she sit on it to see if somebody claimed it.
Then there’s the case of Billy Ray Harris of Kansas City. A donor recently dropped a diamond engagement ring in the homeless man’s coin cup without his realizing it. He later had it appraised – and was offered $4,000 for it by a jeweler.
Harris could’ve used that money. He also could’ve assumed it was a purposeful donation, intended for him. Instead, he returned to the spot – and a day later the relieved owner showed up to claim it.
“Harris thought of taking the money,” one news report said, “but said that his grandfather raised him to be honest. He knew in his heart he couldn’t take the money.”
Think about this, too: In the Augusta case, the rightful owner of the ring was allowed to believe for nearly two weeks that it was history. Can you imagine the anguish?
It’s a shame the finder in this case didn’t take a more ethical path. It’s a bigger shame that some would now have you believe she’s a victim for it.