by Robert J. Hansen
South Lake Tahoe, CA – Earlier this month one of five men who were fighting murder charges in El Dorado County since 2017 was released for time served after accepting a plea agreement for armed robbery, according to El Dorado County records.
Harvest Davidson, 25, was initially charged with murder in the 2016 shooting death of Dennis Wright in South Lake Tahoe.
Those involved have said it was meant to be a marijuana business transaction while El Dorado has argued the intent was an armed robbery.
Davidson pled guilty to two counts of Robbery and admitted that a principal was armed during that robbery, according to Joe Alexander, Chief Assistant District Attorney of El Dorado County.
In an email, Alexander said Davidson still had time left to serve that sentence at the time of his plea, which is why he was transported to CDCR and housed at Kern Valley State Prison.
“If Mr. Davidson was ‘credit for time served’ at the time of sentencing, he would have been paroled from the County Jail where he had been housed pending trial,” Alexander said.
Tina Perry, Davidson’s mother attended all of his court hearings except one and without her efforts, he very likely would have been convicted of murder and still in prison.
Kristy Khokhobashvili, Chief Of External Affairs for The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told Perry that she can’t believe El Dorado County transferred Davidson if he really only has a few days or is even done.
“What a waste of everybody’s time, funds, and Davidson’s mental health,” Khokhobashvili said.
Khokhobashvili requested information from the courts that show El Dorado County’s information showed a full year when it should show four months.
In a phone interview, Davidson said he was told by Sergeant Milbanks, a deputy in the El Dorado County jail, that his time was complete but El Dorado County Judge Michael McLaughlin ordered the transfer to CDCR regardless of the sentence.
At that sentencing hearing, Davidson’s attorney was told by the judge that he didn’t care that Davidson only had ten days left on his sentence.
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t care if he only has ten days left, he needs to check into CDCR,” the judge said, according to Davidson.
The El Dorado County court sentenced Davidson to seven years and four months which was completed when good behavior credits were applied to the time spent in an El Dorado County jail.
Davidson thought he was simply going to be released from the El Dorado County jail having served his sentence.
“But that’s not what happened,” Davidson said.
Six-year murder case, three prosecutors, at least five defense attorneys ends after plea agreement
Many factors contributed to Mr. Davidson’s case took so long to reach a conclusion, according to the Chief Assistant DA.
Alexander said the nature of the charges, the extent of pre-trial litigation and the number of co-defendants all played a role.
Davidson believed he was entitled to a dismissal under a new law passed in 2018, SB 1437, a position El Dorado County did not agree with Chief Assistant Deputy DA Alexander said.
Davidson questioned why the county dropped the murder charge if they did not agree he was entitled to a dismissal.
“If I was liable for murder, I would have went to trial and lost,” Davidson said.
According to the legislation, SB 1437 provides a means of vacating the conviction and resentencing a defendant when a complaint, information, or indictment was filed against the defendant that allowed the prosecution to proceed under a theory of first-degree felony murder.
The other men charged with murder were Dion Vaccaro, Dominic Randolph, Tristan Batten, and Tevarez Lopez.
Batten, Vaccaro and Travarez have already been convicted of murder although Travarez and Vaccaro are fighting to overturn their convictions, according to court records.
“My public defender challenged so many of the court’s mishandlings of the case that they then offered an armed robbery charge which I had already served enough time for,” Davidson said.
He was sentenced around mid-November with a special order from the judge to be sent to the CDCR and an eight-year sentence, eight months longer than agreed upon.
Davidson’s mother fought for her son’s release from beginning to end, only missing one day of court in seven years’ worth of hearings.
“I just had to stay strong and stay encouraged,” Perry said.
She owed her gratitude to one attorney who told her that she was fighting for her son and will take learning the law.
“I thought that’s what I pay attorneys for but he told me, ‘no you have to do it,’” Perry said.