Jaime Davidson is a Panamian-born reggaeton artist/cocaine kingpin who was convicted in the 1990 murder of a New York police officer, Wallie Howard, who was shot to death in a robbery while working a drug operation undercover, according to court records.
The case is back in the news because President Donald Trump commuted Davidson’s prison sentence, causing great anger from prosecutors and police. The government successfully alleged in court that Davidson, who was not the triggerman (that was Robert ‘Bam Bam’ Lawrence), was the major drug ringleader who set the murder in motion. A petition to free Davidson called him, “a citizen from the Republic of Panama, Jaime Alexander Davidson, Sr.” It says he’s also known as El Hijo de Panama or Gringo El Originl,” and claims he’s the “Original Founder of the Reggaeton Culture.” He maintains that he is innocent and Trump said key witnesses recanted; multiple courts said otherwise throughout the years.
According to Jamaicans Music.com, “Reggaeton has its roots in Latin and Caribbean music. Its sound derives from the Reggae en Espanol from Panama. This genre was invented, shaped and made known in Puerto Rico where it got its name; most of its current artistes are also from Puerto Rico. After its mainstream exposure in 2004, it spread to North American, European, Asian and African audiences.”
You can read the original indictment here.
The case was argued in 1994 before the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. In that court case, the defendants, including Davidson, unsuccessfully appealed their convictions “after a jury trial conducted in the Northern District of New York, before District Judge Neal P. McCurn, on various charges stemming from the drug-related killing of an undercover police officer, deputized as a federal agent, that took place in Syracuse on October 30, 1990.”
Over the years, there have been many, many court filings, with Davidson, 52, on the losing end.
He wrote on his Facebook page, “I’ve served over 25 years, 5 months and 11 days, to date… I would love to be able to hug and kiss my mother in person in society. I’m praying to God that He holds on to her for me, so I could walk out of prison a free man and take her for dinner at a nice restaurant to tell her and show her how much I love her.”
But the commutation has enraged those who prosecuted the case and who knew the deceased officer.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick told Syracuse.com he didn’t support the commutation, saying, “Lots of worthy candidates for sentence commutation. Davidson is not one of them. It’s stunning.”
“It’s a disgrace and he should be ashamed of himself for doing it,” said Congressman John Katko (NY-24) to CNY Central.
The site also quoted Syracuse Police Union President Joseph Moran, who said, “During a time when police are under such scrutiny, this is another blow to the law enforcement profession. The commutation of Davidson, along with the release of Robert ‘Bam Bam’ Lawrence, has reopened wounds at SPD and for the Howard family. We are deeply saddened by this decision.”
“I’m kind of outraged that President Trump has granted him a commutation,” said retired Assistant U.S. Attorney John Duncan, a Republican who prosecuted Davidson, to Syracuse.com.
The officials praised the slain cop. “He would have been a transformative cop in the city of Syracuse. He probably would have been the first African American chief,” said Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick. “When you get a guy like Wallie Howard it just makes people like you and me feel better knowing someone like that is protecting us and that’s why his death was such a loss.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The White House Says Witnesses Recanted Their Testimony, But the Key Witness Told a Newspaper in 2014 That Davidson Gave Him the Murder Weapon
Howard had been on the force for nine years. He left behind a fiancée and two children, who were only 7 years old and 5 months. His funeral was attended by 5,000 officers from more than 100 departments, who lined the street near the church, according to a 1990 story in the Elmira Star-Gazette.
The White House explained the commutation this way:
President Trump commuted the sentence of Jaime A. Davidson. This commutation is supported by Mr. Davidson’s family and friends, Alice Johnson, and numerous others. In 1993, Mr. Davidson was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in relation to the murder of an undercover officer. Notably, witnesses who testified against Mr. Davidson later recanted their testimony in sworn affidavits and further attested that Mr. Davidson had no involvement. Although Mr. Davidson has been incarcerated for nearly 29 years, the admitted shooter has already been released from prison. Following the commutation of his sentence, Mr. Davidson will continue legal efforts to clear his name. In addition, while incarcerated, Mr. Davidson mentored and tutored over 1,000 prisoners to help them achieve their GED certificates. Mr. Davidson has earned praise from prison officials for his dedication to helping others.
Johnson is the former federal inmate previously freed by Trump at the request of Kim Kardashian West and her Chicago-raised rapper husband Kanye West.
According to Syracuse.com, “dozens of judges” denied Davidson’s efforts to get a new trial. The federal Office of the Pardon Attorney rejected his bid for freedom in 2013 and 2017.
The story says that “local law enforcement,” as well as the federal prosecutor on the case “don’t know what Trump is talking about” in the reasoning for the commutation.
The newspaper reported that the key witness implicating Davidson was the 16 year old triggerman, Robert Lawrence, also known as “Robert Julian,” and “Bam-Bam.” The newspaper added that he didn’t have a reason to lie because he “was offered no deal for his testimony” and was already facing life in prison. He pinpointed Davidson as the “mastermind,” saying he gave him the murder weapon and asked him to collect money for him.
“There’s no question from the evidence that (Davidson) planned this,” the prosecutor told the newspaper.
The newspaper reported that there is “no court record of Lawrence recanting his testimony.” According to Syracuse.com, he testified against Davidson because he felt abandoned by him after taking the fall.
An article by Syracuse.com in 2014 featured a jailhouse interview with Lawrence. He expressed great remorse and admitted being the triggerman; the newspaper reported that he “admitted that he lied about that day in the first few years after the murder. He claimed back then that he didn’t know he was going to a robbery, only that the drug ring leader, Jaime ‘Stringer’ Davidson, had given him a gun to act as protection.”
However, this recantation – of the key witness – didn’t go in Davidson’s direction. “The plot to rob Howard and his confidential informant, Luther Gregory, was hatched a few weeks earlier, Lawrence admits now,” the article reports, claiming, “Davidson was upset that Gregory was complaining that he was getting bad cocaine, Lawrence said.”
“So he said, ‘All right, he want to play games? We gonna rob him,'” Lawrence said, quoting Davidson, to Syracuse.com.
The case involved the following defendants, court records say:
Dean Thomas, also known as “Dino”
Jaime A. Davidson, also known as “Stringer,” “Andrew Brown,” and “Jaime Davidson”
Juan A. Morales, also known as “Pedro” and “Antonio,”
Robert Lawrence, also known as “Robert Julian,” and “Bam-Bam”
Lenworth Parke, also known as “Lenwood Parker,” “Glen,” and “Paul Scott”
Gary Anthony Stewart, also known as “Poppy”
According to a 1993 article in the Elmira, New York, Star-Gazette, accessed through Newspapers.com, Stewart “claimed he went along with the plan to pay off a drug debt to Davidson. Morales’ lawyers made a similar plea” but said he was the getaway car driver. A person whose last name was given as Jaquith said it was Parke who gave Lawrence the revolver he used to shoot Howard, saying he was Davidson’s “principal lieutenant.”
The Free Jaime site claims that, in an affidavit, Stewart now says, “If I was ever called upon to testify on Mr. Davidson’s behalf. I would’ve tell the truth that Mr. Davidson was not a prime leader in any drug ring or present in the apartment on Elm St. on the morning of October 30, 1990.”
In a 2000 affidavit posted on the Free Jaime site, Lawrence wrote that Morales asked him to “help him go take care of a deal for Jaime A. Davidson, because this guy had robbed Jaime.” He said Morales “took me into a room, handed me over a .357 revolver and said to hold it just in case the guy tried to rob them again… the way Pedro kept using Jaime’s name so loosely between orders and commands stating that Jaime said to do this or that, made me truly believe that Jaime was in on the deal and he was working through Morales in sending his orders.”
He later found out Jaime was not even in Syracuse. He said Morales was driving Jaime’s car. He said Morales was one of Davidson’s van drivers. He said that he asked Morales to tell him the truth if Luther Gregory even knew Jaime or if he really robbed Jaime and he laughed and said, “Hell no, but I had to make up a quick story to get those cops off me,because they were punishing me (meaning, beating me up bad.”)
He now thinks Morales lied to him. He said Gregory, the intended robbery victim, couldn’t even identify or mention Jaime at trial.
He said he felt set up because he thought murder counts would be dropped against his co defendants.
However, a 1993 story by the Associated Press, reported that Lawrence told jurors that Davidson, then 24, and from Brooklyn, gave him the murder weapon. “It was incredibly damaging,” one of Davidson’s lawyers told AP. The victim’s mother told AP, “I wanted to them to get Davidson. It doesn’t get Junior back. But he (Davidson) won’t be setting nobody else’s killing or robbery.”
The petition to free Davidson paints a different scene. It reads:
“Davidson came to the United States in 1979 to reunite with his parents, to look for the ‘AMERICAN DREAM!'” He has dual citizenship, the petition says.
The petition continues:
Davidson graduated from Lafayette High School in Coney Island (Brooklyn, New York), in 1986. This is Davidson’s first offense and first time in prison. Davidson is not only an artist: he’s a music producer, promoter, DJ, Dancehall Reggae Sound System Owner with his own artists, and special events organizer. And, since his incarceration, Davidson is now known throughout the entire Federal (BOP) System as an: Educator, well respected bilingual jailhouse lawyer/law clerk, organization’s project coordinator, prison organizer for society’s plights, motivational speaker, and civil servant, etc., with countless letters/memos of recommendations to support his background.
Davidson wrote a book called, Visionary: The Rise and Fall of the Reggaeton Man: Fame Comes with a Steep Price!
2. Howard Was Shot & Killed During a Cocaine ‘Buy-Bust’ in the Parking Lot of Mario’s Big M Market; Court Documents Say the Government Proved Davidson Was Leading a ‘Cocaine Conspiracy’
Lawrence was paroled after his sentence was reduced because he was a juvenile when the homicide occurred, according to Auburn Pub.com.
The appellate court decision alleges these details of the murder:
Wallie Howard, a Syracuse police officer, was working undercover for the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration. He was shot and killed during a cocaine “buy-bust” in the parking lot of Mario’s Big M Market in Syracuse.
“According to the testimony adduced at trial, Davidson was the head and supplier of a cocaine conspiracy that had begun in Syracuse in or around 1988. The conspiracy allegedly sold between ten and fifty thousand dollars of cocaine weekly, with Davidson supplying the cocaine and receiving the bulk of the proceeds.”
The court decision alleges that Parke was a chief lieutenant of Davidson’s, and that Parke and Morales “frequently delivered cocaine to customers who had called them on their beepers to place orders. Lawrence was a seller at one of the conspiracy’s drug apartments; he also functioned as ‘muscle’ for the conspiracy.”
Stewart “had dealt cocaine for the conspiracy in the past, and owed the group a debt for cocaine he had purchased three weeks earlier which turned out to be ‘bad.’ He was invited to participate in the events of the 30th as a means of paying off the debt he owed to the conspiracy for this cocaine,” the court decision says.
On October 18, 1990, Howard and a confidential informant named Luther Gregory purchased 3 ounces of cocaine from Morales for $2,700, the records say. They give these details of the earlier drug transaction:
While the deal took place in Gregory’s apartment, Parke walked around the apartment-house, apparently conducting counter-surveillance. On October 22, Howard and Gregory purchased another 4 ounces of cocaine from Morales. Parke waited in the car outside while Morales delivered the cocaine and collected the money. At that purchase, Howard and Gregory inquired about the possibility of buying an additional 1.5 kilograms of cocaine. Morales indicated that he would be able to supply that amount, and the transaction was scheduled for October 29th. Because Parke and Morales did not arrive with the cocaine on the 29th, the sale was rescheduled for the 30th.
The morning of October 30, the day of the murder, the DEA drug task force met to schedule the buy-bust, the court records say. The agents were worried about a robbery because the drug deal involved $40,000, so they set up the buy at a public location.
“Their fears were well-founded; Davidson had made plans to rob Gregory because he felt Gregory had robbed him in the past,” the records allege.
3. Davidson Was Accused of Laying Out a Plan for the Robbery
The court records go into detail about what the government believed happened next.
“The defendants also met the morning of the 30th…and Davidson laid out his plan to rob Gregory of the money,” they say.
Parke “supplied Lawrence with a .357 caliber revolver, and Stewart was armed with a .22 caliber handgun. Morales was to negotiate the deal and act as the driver, and Lawrence and Stewart were to conduct the actual robbery. Davidson and Parke remained behind as the others left to meet Gregory,” explain the court documents.
They say it went down this way:
Morales met with Agent Howard and Gregory at Gregory’s apartment, and they agreed to do the deal in the parking lot of Mario’s Big M. When the buyers arrived at the parking lot, Morales told Gregory to come with him to Morales’s apartment to check the quality of the cocaine. When they arrived at Morales’s apartment, Lawrence and Stewart emerged with guns drawn. They bound and gagged Gregory, breaking his wrist in the process. Morales, Lawrence, and Stewart then returned to Mario’s Big M. While Morales waited in his car, Lawrence and Stewart, both armed, approached Gregory’s vehicle, where Agent Howard was seated in the passenger seat. Stewart proceeded to the driver’s side and got in the driver’s seat, while Lawrence went around the back of the vehicle to the passenger side.
The following conversation was recorded on the agents’ equipment:
Stewart: What the f***’s up?
Lawrence: Open up the door.
Stewart: Tell me where the money is.
Howard: What money?
Lawrence: Hey, hey, hey …
Stewart: Hey, don’t shut …
Lawrence: Open the door, man.
According to trial testimony, the court documents say that Stewart “had the loaded .22 in his hand, and tried to shoot, but was unsuccessful because no round had been placed in the chamber. Agent Howard got three shots off, one of which struck Stewart in the shoulder.”
They continue, “From behind Howard, Lawrence, who was standing at the rear passenger side of the vehicle, fired the .357 at Agent Howard, striking him in the rear of the head and killing him. Stewart was arrested seconds later slumped against a wall with the .22 nearby. Morales and Lawrence attempted to flee but were both apprehended within moments; the murder weapon was recovered from the floor of Morales’ vehicle. Both Morales and Stewart waived their Miranda rights, made admissions, and signed confessional affidavits.”
4. Davidson Presented Alibi Witnesses But the Courts Said They Were Irrelevant Because He Was Convicted of Conspiracy
The petition to free Davidson says that “Some of Davidson’s artists used one of his vehicles in the City of Syracuse, New York and committed a crime during a drug buy and bust that went wrong…Davidson was later found involved due to the license plate of his station wagon registered under his name.” The site claims he didn’t have advance knowledge of the crime. The site claims the death was really a case of friendly fire, but that’s not what courts have repeatedly found.
The court documents say Davidson presented four alibi witnesses who testified he was in New York City. He argued the judge should have given the jury an “alibi defense charge.”
The court disagreed, saying that the alibi wasn’t a defense because the government did not need to show that Davidson was present to convict him of the crime because the government was alleging a conspiracy.
“There was extensive evidence that Davidson masterminded the narcotics conspiracy and the plan to rob Gregory and Howard,” the court found. “Part of the evidence of Davidson’s complicity in the plan to rob Gregory related to times prior to October 30th. This evidence fully justified his conviction on the accomplice or conspiracy theory, regardless whether he was in Syracuse on the 30th.”
At trial, in addition to the detailed confessions, the government “presented significant testimony that established the facts underlying the longstanding cocaine ring. Daryl Gibbs, a cooperating coconspirator, testified at length about the operation of the conspiracy,” the court documents say.
“He also testified that the conspirators had planned to rob someone who had robbed Davidson in the past. Gibbs also testified that he saw Davidson after the shooting, and that Davidson stated that he had told his men that ‘if the guy [Gregory] was with someone, don’t rob him.'”
Other witnesses “confirmed various aspects of the conspiracy,” the documents say. Witnesses described seeing Stewart holding a gun and Lawrence “holding a smoking gun and uttering expletives,” according to the documents.
“In his confession, Morales recounted the events of the day largely as outlined above. He stated that seated in his car in the parking lot, he saw Stewart draw a gun and get shot by Howard. He further testified that Lawrence then shot Howard in the head, threw his gun into Morales’ car, and started to run,” the documents say.
The defendants were convicted at trial.
5. Davidson Says He Was Born in Panama & Was a Reggae Recording Artist When He was Imprisoned ‘for a Crime I Never Committed’
The Free Jaime website has an article written by Davidson that gives some of his biography. In it, he says that he was born October 16, 1968 as Jaime A. Davidson, otherwise known as the Gringo. He was “the youngest of four children born to Shirley & Isaac Davidson, Sr., in Panama City, Panama.”
He paints a very different picture of his occupation at the time of the murder. “Upon entering the Federal Bureau of Prison, I was a 23 year old bilingual Reggae Recording Artist, Dancehall Promoter and father of one (Jaime Jr.),” he wrote.
“Living in New York City, my life as an artist started to shine after recording my first hit single (Shabba Ranks, ‘Trailer Load of Girls’), in Spanish. I was know for being the owner of ‘BABYQUAKE HI-POWER,’ a $500.000.00 sound system, representing the Flatbush area in Brooklyn, NY. I had a reputation for giving free concerts as a way of helping local colleges raise funds for their school programs.”
He has advocated for his cause through music and websites.
He claims he became “a victim of the United States’ fictitious ‘WAR ON DRUGS.’ I was arrested, charged, tried and convicted for an alleged drug conspiracy and murder of a Syracuse, NY Police Officer, Wallie Howard, Jr. All of my so-called friend turned their backs on me and I lost everything. My entire life was destroyed after I was sentenced to ‘3 Life Sentences, plus 85 years,’ for a crime I never committed.”
In prison, he says, “Now, as a jailhouse lawyer, I not only fight to regain my freedom, I also fight for others, especially the youth.” He calls himself the “ORIGINAL FOUNDER OF THE ‘REGGAETON CULTURE,” and writes that he has worked to help other inmates.
The petition to free Davidson says his family has heavy military ties. His father is a retired military civilian general who used to train U.S. soldiers in the Panama Canal Zone; his brother is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and his other brothers are a sergeant and sergeant major in the U.S. military. His son is joining the Army and studying to become an attorney.
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