A funny ring to it

Theft case underscores the importance of ethics

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We don’t know if Alexia Davis will be convicted of a crime. But neither is she the innocent victim they’re trying to make her out to be.

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.

Comments (36) Add comment
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Haki
31
Points
Haki 03/12/13 - 12:45 am
6
20
Nothing new here!

ACES continue to fan the flames of divisiveness. Like Pavlov's dog, the reaction is irresistible. I'm sure this young lady has accomplished many great things life, to be unfortunately condemned by one mistake.

Riverman1
79790
Points
Riverman1 03/12/13 - 04:22 am
6
12
Nope, No Wrong Doing Here

Whether we like the way she handled it or not, it’s presumptuous to assume she was going to keep the ring. She did attempt to find the owner immediately by going back in the restaurant and asking if anyone had reported a lost ring. Assuming she should have given the ring to the restaurant “manager” is faulty logic. That person is an unknown factor and certainly not an official of any type. There are other businesses in that area with parking lots connected and there wasn’t even a certainty the owner of the ring had been in that restaurant. Giving the ring to some unofficial person such as the “manager” or the girl scooping ice cream in the other nearby business is a gamble.

Is such a person capable of giving a receipt accepting responsibility for the ring and its return to the owner? What if the person loses the ring? Would the finder of the ring share the responsibility because she gave it to an unofficial individual? Where do you draw the line with whom to give the ring to?

So to suggest she should have given it to the manager is questionable. If you want to suggest it should have been turned into the police, that’s a different matter. They are legal officials. But the finder did exactly that and turned it into the police after a debatable two week period. We can surmise what her motives were in keeping the ring, but the facts are she tried to find the owner immediately and did turn the ring in…for whatever reason. There’s no type of theft here. To charge her with a crime is misguided.

Further if we are going to discuss the non-legal, ethical question, know what a “bad” person would have done? A person wanting to just keep the ring would have bent over, picked up the ring, slipped it in her pocket and kept going without attempting to find the owner. Think about it.

Gary Ross
3346
Points
Gary Ross 03/12/13 - 08:19 am
9
1
Sensitive issue?

Not really. It's pretty clear that she "could have" done a number of things, but didn't. Trash the speculation, please. It's choices like these that define who we really are deep inside, and you cannot hide that or cultivate a favorable self image of yourself to distort it.

A life time of perfection ruined by one little incident? Extremely doubtful. A victim? Get real. In the end, God will be the judge. Can she live with his ruling?

just an opinion
2382
Points
just an opinion 03/12/13 - 08:23 am
12
0
River- I wouldn't have to think about it.

I would have called dispatch from the location and asked for a deputy. Right is right and wrong is wrong. I'm trying to teach my children that not only from what I say but what I do.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 03/12/13 - 08:45 am
11
0
Haki...divisiveness? Who is
Unpublished

Haki...divisiveness? Who is being divided by this article?

dichotomy
30813
Points
dichotomy 03/12/13 - 09:17 am
7
0
My personal belief is that

My personal belief is that after a feeble attempt to find out if anyone reported losing the ring and then the realization that the ring was real and valuable, she had decided to sit on it for a while and see if anything happened. She should have called the sheriff's department. And being a lawyer she knew that. Or she should have run an ad in the paper. But she took no further action which implies intent to keep it.

Having said that, I don't think they can prove a crime....especially with any jury they would get around here.

deestafford
24090
Points
deestafford 03/12/13 - 10:00 am
7
0
It is said character is what one does when no one is looking

Well, this person with legal training thought no one was looking and what did she do? Kept the ring. When she found out some was looking what did she do? The right thing. Huummm.

Riverman1
79790
Points
Riverman1 03/12/13 - 10:13 am
3
3
Legal and Ethical Questions

There is a legal issue and one where we want to decide what was the ethical action to take. I think most of us agree it is probably not illegal. We can debate whether it is ethical and I'm sure many would have taken faster action to turn the ring in. However, she DID turn the ring in even if she feared being discovered was the impetus to do so. She had not stolen the ring and if she had not gone back in and looked for the owner, no one would have ever known she had found it. Because she waited two weeks and her photo was made public you can't legally, without a reasonable doubt, determine her motive.

Austin Rhodes
2852
Points
Austin Rhodes 03/12/13 - 10:27 am
9
1
RM you have the facts wrong...

Two people found the ring, the one who went inside to talk to the clerk IS NOT the one who is charged. She was told by the one who was charged that she was going to turn it over to the Sheriff.

TWO WEEKS later, the friend who talked to the clerk finds herself on TV, wanted for questioning in the case...she then calls the woman charged and says "WHAT THE ****?!"....THAT is when the lady turned in the ring, and was subsequently charged.

And THAT is why the cops had no choice but to charge her. Understand?

Riverman1
79790
Points
Riverman1 03/12/13 - 11:21 am
3
3
Austin, I did understand

Austin, I did understand about her friend, the Asian woman, finding the ring, although I wasn't sure how they decided who would take charge of the ring. She may have told her friend she was going to "turn it in," but no time line was agreed to. It appears both were in agreement that it shouldn't be turned into the person working in Cracker Barrel although they DID GO BACK inside looking for the owner. None of that affects my point. You can't convict her because you BELIEVE she had bad intentions is the issue. She did turn the ring in before being charged.

Do I believe she was going to keep the ring...probably. When she took it to be appraised she was certainly hoping she would end up with it. But that doesn't mean she wasn't going to turn it in. Items not claimed go to the finder. So how can she be convicted of THINKING about keeping the ring? How many people have thought about committing a crime, but didn't carry it out? You can't arrest them for something they don't act on.

bubbasauce
20573
Points
bubbasauce 03/12/13 - 11:26 am
9
3
Riverman, I thought about

Riverman, I thought about it. Yes, she is guilty and should be charged with a felony. People such as you making excuse after excuse truly amaze me!

Riverman1
79790
Points
Riverman1 03/12/13 - 11:36 am
3
2
It's a discussion about a

It's a discussion about a legal and ethical issue. I'm glad I amazing for you. Thank you.

Fiat_Lux
14853
Points
Fiat_Lux 03/12/13 - 11:51 am
3
2
Riverman is right (as usual)

I'm inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt on motives. Personally, I wouldn't know a valuable stone from colored glass most of the time, and I can't assume she knew it was as valuable as it turned out to be either, even if the thought crossed her mind at some point. Consequently, I can understand why it wasn't the first thing on her mind every morning for the next two weeks. When it turned out to be valuable after all and she was reminded, perhaps, that she hadn't turned it in, she didn't try to hide the facts or blame anyone else. She turned it in. And you can't automatically assume that she only did that because she couldn't escape detection. She's just not stupid enough to regard something worth less than a month's salary over and above a career in the law stretching decades into the future. She's just not that stupid, not if she can pass the bar exam.

I don't think she is a victim and I do think she was somewhat derelict in dealing with this ring, but certainly not in any criminal way. That would be right hard to prove, I think. This lapse on her part, whether through soft ethical standards, or a lack of focus, or even from procrastination because of overwork, has stained her reputation. She won't recover from this any time soon, at least not professionally and not in the CSRA.

But she's a lawyer, and all kinds of good lawyers get called on the carpet at one time or another for unthinking actions and unintentionally stepping over a line that they haven't noticed, and survive without permanent damage. I hope she falls into that category.

GiantsAllDay
9153
Points
GiantsAllDay 03/12/13 - 12:12 pm
2
2
This is an interesting story

This is an interesting story and I appreciate ACES's take on this. It's hard for me to wrap my head around this whole thing. One thing I'm pretty sure of: The black clergy rallied around her because she is somewhat of a public figure. She went to college and has a post grad degree. If the perp were an inconsequential black kid, living in sect 8 housing, the black clergy would have been silent. The black clergy, from the Rev. Jackson on down, have always cracked me up. Of course, Dr. King was an exception--he was alright.

gbraun
6
Points
gbraun 03/12/13 - 12:29 pm
4
1
Why all the publicity

Why would the Chronicle publicize the rally in the first place. Is that all the news they could come up with? Someone needs to look at these stunts and decide which ones are truly news worthy.

Fiat_Lux
14853
Points
Fiat_Lux 03/12/13 - 02:57 pm
3
0
Generally, rallies like this

don't serve the best interests of the people for who they are held. They are more likely to arouse a certain amount of antipathy from the most influential elements of a community precisely because they have the unwelcome, even infuriating undercurrent of manipulation based on some unworthy, non-credible feature such as, uhm, race for instance.

Alexia Davis should stand or fall on her own merits, just like any other lawyer or citizen. Were I Ms. Davis, this rally would have caused me total personal humiliation. Working behind the scenes and storming heaven are much better plans, in my estimation, and far more dignified.

But then, to each his own.

Austin Rhodes
2852
Points
Austin Rhodes 03/12/13 - 03:30 pm
5
1
Let's try not to excuse behavior of any type...

...because someone is "smart".

Charles Walker, Robin Williams, and Ed McIntyre were pretty sharp guys...and we see where THEY ended up.

No one argues the intellect of Bill Clinton, yet he thought he could use a White House intern like some drunk sorority girl, with no repercussions.
Smart folks do dumb things all the time, and some of those dumb things are illegal.

But make no mistake, it was the complaint of Davis's co-worker, who was made to look like a thief because it was HER image on the tape, that prompted these charges. The CCSO has done their job in this situation, and at some point, so will a jury.

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 03/12/13 - 03:40 pm
1
0
Ethics?

Sure, Alexia Davis has ethics(of some kind), what she did not show she had was, morals! As I said a couple of days ago, Ms. Davis should work hard for paying clients, and she could buy her very own beautiful ring!

itsanotherday1
40538
Points
itsanotherday1 03/12/13 - 05:20 pm
3
0
As I said before, in the big

As I said before, in the big scheme of things this was a wrong, but not one that she should get her career ruined over. I hope the jury and judge see fit to slap her hand hard some way without damaging her bar status.

Fiat_Lux
14853
Points
Fiat_Lux 03/12/13 - 05:54 pm
6
1
Ye gods and little fishes,

Austin, you are relentless. Do you have some heretofore undisclosed talent for reading people's souls? For knowing everything about their motives?

Why don't you give it a rest already? Or, if you just can't restrain yourself, at least clue the rest of us in on your special knowledge about this woman-- who is about to have her head handed to her in some way or another-- that makes you so intent upon having her nailed so thoroughly.

I just don't remember your going after Joe Neal with such obvious relish, and what he did was inexpressibly more reprehensible.

seenitB4
81891
Points
seenitB4 03/12/13 - 05:59 pm
3
1
I put this on r/r but it needs to go here too

About this ring thingy

Let us just say the female lawyer actually lost the dang ring.....I mean really did...would yall want her to replace the dang thing!!!

Why is it NO ONE has said a blessed thing thing about the dummy losing it in the 1st place....why??
Why didn't the owner get her tail back over at the restaurant giving it a thorough checking....are we responsible for every lost item EVERYWHERE.....next time I see something on the ground I might hesitate picking it up...thinking the hassle won't be worth my trouble.....or might have to go to court because I found it....esp in Augusta...

seenitB4
81891
Points
seenitB4 03/12/13 - 06:01 pm
2
0
hahah river said...

It's a discussion about a legal and ethical issue. I'm glad I amazing for you. Thank you.

Actually he amazes all of us...all of the time hahahahah

seenitB4
81891
Points
seenitB4 03/12/13 - 06:04 pm
2
2
also this

ok...I know yall will say

Wouldn't you do the decent thing...welll here is what I probably would do

Go on about my business...like go to work

Call the restaurant & say I found a ring (don't tell what kind though) will return to owner if they can describe it to me....

Have owner bring something (if possible) to prove it is hers...

Why is the blame all on the person who found it....let's put some trouble & work on the woman who lost it..

seenitB4
81891
Points
seenitB4 03/12/13 - 06:08 pm
3
1
austin

About Bill Clinton

The women RAN after him too.....do you think Monica was innocent....he didn't force her to get under the desk..

seenitB4
81891
Points
seenitB4 03/12/13 - 06:11 pm
1
0
Fiat

I like that 554pm post....

rmwhitley
5526
Points
rmwhitley 03/12/13 - 06:27 pm
0
0
davis is like
Unpublished

her mentors, the naacp. Classless.

Fiat_Lux
14853
Points
Fiat_Lux 03/12/13 - 06:36 pm
3
0
@ seenitB4

I'm ashamed to admit that I did too. sigh...

I just don't get his gleefulness about this. It's a little sickening. And I don't think he should be doing this before she's been convicted of anything. It's not just us anonymous rabble trying her in the court of public opinion. With him joining the fray,the effect is incalculable because he is a fairly high-profile media figure, even if not universally respected.

He's being irresponsible, at least I think so.

seenitB4
81891
Points
seenitB4 03/12/13 - 06:47 pm
3
1
Either way

This will damage her.....I think the woman who lost the ring should be very grateful she had it returned.....& at least find some way to make a public statement in favor of the lawyer....she is very lucky to have it again...some out of towner could be enjoying a ring right now...

Aubie03
19
Points
Aubie03 03/12/13 - 08:01 pm
4
1
I'm sure Ms. Davis is familiar with O.C.G.A. § 16-8-6

O.C.G.A. 16-8-6 (2010)
16-8-6. Theft of lost or mislaid property

A person commits the offense of theft of lost or mislaid property when he comes into control of property that he knows or learns to have been lost or mislaid and appropriates the property to his own use without first taking reasonable measures to restore the property to the owner.

That's all she needed to know to figure out how to resolve this particular ethical and legal dilemma, and it is indisputable that she did not comport herself in a manner that complied with the statute. It's certainly not like she's the first person to be charged under O.C.G.A. § 16-8-6 in this circuit, like some would seem to have us believe.

specsta
6108
Points
specsta 03/12/13 - 08:17 pm
2
3
No Case Here...

"16-8-6. Theft of lost or mislaid property

A person commits the offense of theft of lost or mislaid property when he comes into control of property that he knows or learns to have been lost or mislaid AND appropriates the property to his own use without first taking reasonable measures to restore the property to the owner."

The word "and" is pretty important here. There is no evidence that the general public knows about where Ms. Davis made use of the property (ring). She didn't wear it and she didn't sell it. I don't think a ring can be "appropriated" any other way, other than those two ways.

The DA has no case, and it is astounding that they haven't dropped the charges.

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