Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates is throwing his support behind a bill that would make it harder for some offenders to earn time off their sentence for good conduct.
Maryland lawmakers this legislative session are considering restrictions on the ability of some sexual offenders to earn time off of their sentences. Gov. Wes Moore has already signaled his support for the limits.
The bill comes in response to the arrest this fall of Jason Billingsley, who was released early from his prison sentence. Billingsley, 32, is facing new charges in Baltimore City connected to an assault of a man and woman in September and the killing days later of Pava LaPere, an up-and-coming entrepreneur.
Bates endorsed the bill during a news conference Tuesday, where he was joined by Frank LaPere, Pava LaPere’s father.
“It is apparent that our current system is deeply flawed when an individual with a criminal record that shows a propensity to threaten public safety can be released from prison early,” Bates said.
“While this is a tragic, horrific loss, which could have been avoided, Pava’s vision and dreams are living on. We cannot allow the system that led to this injustice to continue,” said Frank LaPere.
If the bill is approved and becomes law, the Pava Marie LaPere Act would alter who is eligible for Maryland’s early release system that allows incarcerated individuals to earn what are called “diminution credits.”
Billingsley pleaded guilty to a first-degree sex offense charge in 2015 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison with all but 14 years suspended. Denied parole in 2020, he was released in October 2022 on good-time credits, according to parole commission Chairman David R. Blumberg. According to court records, Billingsley previously pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in December 2009 and second-degree assault in June 2011.
Like most states, Maryland allows inmates to earn time off their sentence for good conduct and engaging in work programs, which can moveup their release dates.
Inmates can earn up to 30 days per month under the “diminution credit” system, according to a 2020 state report. Those serving sentences for crimes of violence, large drug sentences or sex offenses can receive up to 20 days per month. They earn credit for work tasks, education and special projects.
Delegate Elizabeth M. Embry said there were about 10-15 people convicted per year in Maryland to whom this new standard would apply.
“A person who commits first-degree rape should not be released before the conclusion of their sentence without the review and judgment of the parole commission,” Embry said.
Bates did not immediately share any other examples of cases where the new bill would apply, but said even one example “is one too many.”
Responding to concerns that this bill would further mass incarceration, Bates reiterated what Embry said earlier in the press conference — that convicted offenders would still be eligible for parole, but that parole is a more thorough process than the diminution credit system.
Billingsley was listed as a registered sex offender who lived in the 1500 block of Baker Street in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore.
On Sept. 19, Billingsley held a man and a woman captive in the basement of a West Baltimore home, bound them, sexually assaulted the woman, cut her throat, poured liquid on them and set them on fire, according to Baltimore Police. The couple managed to escape.
Less than a week later, LaPere was killed, her body found partially clothed on the top of her Mount Vernon apartment building on Sept. 25. The young entrepreneur had started EcoMap Technologies when she was a student at Johns Hopkins University.
Toward the end of the press conference, Frank LaPere said he and the entire family were dealing with Pava’s death as best they could. They were reading a lot and seeking counseling as needed, he said.
“We know it will never be good,” Frank LaPere said. “We just hope it’s bearable.”
Cody Boteler and Kaitlin Newman contributed to this story.