25 Investigates: Ankle bracelet arrests, the risk of a second chance

BOSTON — 25 Investigates uncovered dozens of cases where police arrested people wearing a GPS tracker. That means they were charged with a prior crime, let out, then accused of committing new crimes.

Boston 25 News Anchor Kerry Kavanaugh discovered three people accused of murder while wearing the devices in Boston in 2019.

Suspects: Wearing GPS on bail or probation

25 Investigates examined three years of police records in the City of Boston. We found more than 120 suspects were arrested for new crimes while wearing GPS monitors for prior ones.

Sara Davis says her son, Donnell, was always making jokes, always laughing, and when she cooked, he always ate.

"It's just like every day I do the same old thing, cooking food like an extra piece of meat, thinking this kid's going to come through this door and be like Mom, I'm hungry," Davis told Kavanaugh.

Donnell hasn't walked through his mother's door since May.

Boston Police found the 24-year-old shot to death inside a Dorchester home. They say Ricardo Washington was the shooter. Court records show Washington was wearing a GPS ankle monitor that placed him at the scene of the crime.

Records say Washington then removed his ankle monitor a few blocks away and took off. Police in Georgia arrested Washington in October after he allegedly robbed two banks in Atlanta in the same day.

25 Investigates examined Boston court records and arrest reports and found dozens of similar cases: people accused of committing crimes while wearing GPS tracking devices.

Through an open records request, we learned Boston Police arrested 126 suspects wearing GPS monitors in the last three years.

Year Arrests
2017 22
2018 56
2019 48
Total 126

Of the 48 cases in 2019, more than half of the arrests were for new crimes, which include shootings, armed assaults, selling drugs and stealing cars. Of those, records show only five of the suspects are currently in jail.

The rest are out on bail or personal recognizance.

"Why would he change his behavior when there were no consequences for what he just did," said Boston 25 News security analyst Dan Linskey.

Linksey is also the retired superintendent in chief of the Boston Police Department.

He says it was a top complaint among officers who were locking up suspected criminals only to encounter them on the streets committing new crimes.

"I think some defendants are getting too many chances," Linskey said.

Linskey says GPS is an important tool for non-violent offenders but is a risk for those accused of putting others in danger.

Second chances come at a cost

Donnel Davis's murder was one of three murders this year in which suspects from Boston were wearing GPS monitors.

Christopher McKoy had been facing gun charges.

In February, the Suffolk District Attorney's office says prosecutors requested bail of $10,000.  A judge released him on personal recognizance and ordered him to wear a GPS monitor.

He allegedly removed his bracelet before fatally stabbing his girlfriend, Jamee Amons-Maddrey, in Framingham in October.

In June, a judge convicted Brian Joyce of armed robbery.

According to the Suffolk County DA's office, the prosecution supported Joyce getting the mandatory minimum, which is a 15-year sentence. The judge opted for probation.

In September, records say a GPS bracelet placed Joyce outside a Dorchester bowling alley where he allegedly shot and killed Marcus Dunn-Gordon.

"There's definitely an opportunity to use GPS in an effective manner," Linskey told Kavanaugh. "We just have to make sure that it's real and there are consequences for when people don't abide by the rules."

"That GPS is not there necessarily to prevent crime," said Boston-based defense attorney, Eric Tennen.

Tennen is not connected to any of the cases we examined. But he says when looking into why someone reoffends, bail and GPS aren't the places to start.

"If your concern is how to we stop people from recommitting crimes, that's a different conversation," Tennen said. "I can talk to you programs to help people with mental health issue, or drug issues."

"Are these anomalies that we've uncovered?" Kavanaugh asked.

"I do think they're anomalies," Tennen said. "I think at any given point, I think there's well over 10,000 people on pre-trial release in the state of Massachusetts. You're going to have people who don't show up to court or commit a new crime, even a very serious crime. But that is, by far, a teeny tiny percentage of the people that are out on pre-trial release."

Families of murder victims say the system failed them.

"My son would have been still alive. He would have been still alive," Sara Davis said.

Davis says if Ricardo Washington had been behind bars, her son would still be alive.

The Suffolk County DA's office said prosecutors asked for a $40,000 bail for his prior offense. A judge eventually reduced it to personal recognizance.

"Sometimes I think a judge should stop and make a second thought, 'I want them to think hard, hard,'" Davis said. "I really truly miss my boy so much."

25 Investigates reached out to Massachusetts Trial Courts, but a spokesperson said they couldn't comment on pending cases. The spokesperson added, "judges must weigh many different factors when a case is brought before them, including recommendations from defense counsel and district attorney. In every case there are countervailing facts, and constitutional and legal constraints, all of which a judge must consider when deciding whether to hold someone on pretrial detention."

Suffolk County District Attorney's Office provided all the details about the homicides we referenced. And a spokesperson sent the following statement:

"State law is increasingly clear regarding bail. Absent a dangerousness hearing, or evidence of risk of flight, bail is to be used to ensure appearance in court. When this Office asks for bail, we look at -- among other things -- the alleged crime, the prior record of the defendant, and any defaults."

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