Police: Career burglar caught after 'get-out-of-jail-free card' allows crime spree

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by Jeremy Rogalski / Investigative Reporter

khou.com

Posted on August 1, 2011 at 10:35 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 1 at 11:02 PM

HOUSTON—Houston police have arrested a man they say has broken into not hundreds, but thousands of area cars in his "career."

But investigators allege the most recent crimes of Rosh Anthony Davis didn’t have to happen. Why? They tell the KHOU-11 News I-Team that Davis was on the streets because a judge gave the convicted thief a "get-out-of-jail-free card."

The I-Team first reported last November how many repeat burglars were managing to stay out of prison by receiving a form of probation called deferred adjudication. Davis got it in 2009, and since then, HPD says he’s left a trail of victims from The Woodlands to Katy to Midtown.

"He probably steals 20 laptops a week, and breaks into 50 cars," said Lt. Tim Kubiak. "He’s a professional, this is what he does."

Kubiak runs HPD’s Westside Tactical Unit. Along with the department’s Auto Theft Division, they arrested Davis last week—for the eighth time.

"We’re almost on a first-name basis with him," Kubiak said.

But police say Davis should never have had the chance to steal for the past year and a half. Despite having six previous convictions for burglary of a motor vehicle, a Harris County judge spared Davis from prison on his seventh arrest in 2009. Instead, he received deferred adjudication, a form of probation some call a "get-out-of-jail-free card."

"It’s not fair to the police, and it’s not fair to the public," Ray Hunt told the I-Team last November. Hunt, with the Houston Police Officers’ Union, also predicted trouble for burglars like Davis.

"They’re going to go out and break into more cars, they’re going to break into more homes, more businesses," Hunt said.

The prediction came true for recent car break-in victims, like medical student Mohammad Khalid. Davis allegedly stole his backpack with $300 headphones and some very important schoolwork inside.

"I lost about a day, a day-and-a-half’s worth of work that I had to re-do," Khalid said.

I-Team: "Should he ever have been out on the streets?"

Khalid: "Absolutely not."

I-Team: "To break into your vehicle?"

Khalid: "Absolutely not."

I-Team: "Does it make you mad?"

Khalid: "It ticks me off a little bit, because it set me back."

HPD says all in all, hundreds, perhaps thousands of Houstonians were needlessly victimized while Davis was free.

"He does this from the minute he gets up, six o’clock in the morning, and he’ll go from parking lot to parking lot, and he does it sometimes up towards nine o’clock at night," Lt. Kubiak said.

So who is the judge handling the Davis case? Shawna Reagin, in the 176th Criminal Court, where deferred adjudications jumped a whopping 35 percent in her first 18 months on the bench. Judge Reagin said the cannons of judicial conduct prohibit her from commenting on any pending case.

She does have the option of adjudicating Davis’ guilt, given that his recent arrest is a violation of his probation terms. The Houston Police Officers’ Union says it hopes she’ll sentence Davis to a maximum 20 years.

But the HPOU also says this all could have been avoided with prison time the first time around.

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