Tough on Crime
I got a DWI in Suffolk County, NY. I was driving without my headlamps on at night. It was in a well-lit area, and I was in a rental that didn’t feature auto lights. I even safely pulled my car into a well-lit legal space when I was pulled over, but my BAC was 0.13. I should not have been driving, and I wholeheartedly deserved whatever the outcome was going to be for my actions.
My license was suspended for 60 days, until my first court date. I had to hire an expensive lawyer. He was able to make a deal with the DA where my DWI would be reduced to a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired). My suspended license was upgraded to provisional; I would have to pay the state $750, go to a month-long driver safety course, report weekly to a state appointed counselor, and complete about four hundred hours of community service. After a year of not getting into any other legal trouble, I would be free and clear. Minus the travel and legal cost, I got off easy. I used to say I got the “white people treatment” by the court.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
On March 19th, 2022, Davon Davis was cycling down Linden Avenue on his way home from work. Around 7:00 AM, he was struck and killed instantly by an SUV driven by Gediminas Backus. Backus was drunk, with a Blood Alcohol Content well over .10%, well over New York’s legal limit of .08%. When Davis’s girlfriend went looking for him on his regular route home when he was 2 hours late, she came upon the scene of the accident and was reasonably upset. The police at the accident put her under mental hygiene arrest. Conversely, Backus was allowed to go home instead of being immediately arrested for KILLING A MAN WITH HIS SUV.
They didn’t notify Davon Davis’s family of his death until late that evening. It wasn’t until nearly two weeks later, on March 31st, that Gediminas Backus would be arrested for vehicular manslaughter. In the following months, The Sheriff’s Office did not allow the family to identify or see the body until the day of the funeral. They have not returned Davis’s personal belongings. Months later, in July, the DA’s office called to notify them that they could not secure an indictment from a Grand Jury. The DA’s office never sent a court liaison to contact Davis’s family and keep them abreast of the case process.
So Davon Davis is dead, his family is devastated, and Gediminas Backus is free to drink and drive again.
It is odd to me that the Monroe County District Attorney Office, led by Sandra Doorley, a woman who touts her “tough on crime” stances, could not secure an indictment on a drunk driver who killed someone…actually, it is not at all odd to me that she didn’t secure an indictment. Gediminas Backus, the killer, is a white man. Davon Davis, the victim, is a Black Trans-masculine man.
The Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff Todd Baxter (another “tough on crime” zealot), concluded that Davis’s dark clothes and the weather contributed to his death, essentially putting the blame for his own death on him. Davon Davis’s family insists that he ALWAYS had multiple lights on his bike and body, and he had reflective clothing and stickers on the frame itself. As a casual cyclist myself, I can attest to the hyper vigilance that cyclists have of motor vehicles, especially in the twilight hours, and especially if cycling is a primary mode of transportation. It is unconscionable that the Sheriff’s Office would insinuate that the blame for Davis’s death falls on him, the man commuting home from work, and not Backus, the man operating a vehicle heavily intoxicated.
Sandra Doorley’s office is notorious for inflating the charges for protesters, even accusing them of assault when they were the ones assaulted in their arrest. However, this is not the first time she let a white man commit a crime and get off lightly.
She let two men who destroyed a Frederick Douglass statue essentially draft an essay and help remold the statue that they destroyed, under the guise of “restorative justice.” In that 2018 case, the police even undervalued the worth of the statue, so that they would only have misdemeanor charges. Just recently, she let a man who attacked republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin go with just an appearance ticket. She, Zeldin, and Baxter then went on media tours railing against bail reform and how a “dangerous man” is now out on the street. The problem is that had she charged the man properly, she would have had the power to keep him in custody. Also, since he attacked an elected official, he SHOULD have been charged with a felony, and eventually he WAS detained again by federal investigators.
Where is the outcry?
The local media has been of little help, too. There were only a few stories about the case, and in all outlets, they deadnamed Davon Davis. I have yet to see a follow-up story about how Gediminas Backus is currently off the hook for killing a man.
I cannot imagine the pain that Davon Davis’s family is feeling right now, but I have somewhat of an idea. This is not the first time a white man has gotten away with murdering a Black person in this country. This institution didn’t die in the 1960s, as much as some would like you to believe.
Doorley and Baxter claim to be “tough on crime.” I recently talked about how Baxter bullied a Black parolee who is now free, well past his sentence. Now it seems that Doorley will compromise her bulldog stance on crime when it is politically advantageous, and she cares little for the deaths of certain people. Todd Baxter recently said in an interview that, “We’re failing at public safety.” Yes, Mr. Baxter and Ms. Doorley. You definitely are.
About Chris Thompson
(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog he currently writes and regularly posts on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon. His blog is www.chroniclesofnonesense.com.