HAMPTON, Va. - Community leaders in Hampton are calling for Ronald Davis, a Portsmouth man serving an 80-year sentence for his participation in a 1997 string of armed robberies that resulted in no deaths or injuries, to be released from prison.
Organizers in Hampton held a rally at Fountain of Living Waters Church in support of Davis, who has served 23 years out of his combined 80 years in prison.
Davis was just 18 years old, a high school senior with documented mental health issues, when he pleaded guilty to his crimes.
“I deserve a punishment. Robbery is a serious crime deserving a serious punishment, but to have my whole life taken away from me as an 18-year-old child [is excessive],” Davis told News 3 during a 2020 interview. “I don't deserve this.”
“I never knew that me just playing along, going along, my whole life could be taken away from me,” he added. “I had one bad year, and it's cost me everything.”
"I think an injustice has been done," said Andre Leapheart, the executive director of the Access Restoration Community Center and attendee at Saturday's rally. "Any time an injustice has been done, it should be an alarm for everybody in the community."
The push for a pardon from Gov. Ralph Northam has gained the support of a former Newport News prosecutor whose efforts helped put Davis in prison two decades ago.
“The facts really don't justify the amount of time that he got,” said Richmond-based attorney Matt Danielson during a 2020 interview. “It was really a product of the sentencing guidelines and the mandatory minimums for firearms that the court's hands are kind of tied.”
Saturday's rally wasn't the first held in support of Davis. An April 2021 rally called for Northam to grant Davis a conditional pardon through a petition, which the Secretary of the Commonwealth said was under review.