Gov. Wes Moore plans to back legislation to restrict the ability of some sexual assault offenders in Maryland to earn time off their sentence for good conduct — a proposal lawmakers are expected to consider this session in response to last year’s killing of 26-year-old tech entrepreneur Pava LaPere in Baltimore.
A rising star in Baltimore’s tech scene, LaPere was killed in September at her Baltimore apartment. Police charged 32-year-old Jason Dean Billingsley, a convicted sex offender, with the crime days after they say he committed a separate brutal attack in West Baltimore. The attacks and search for Billingsley shook Baltimore for days last fall and raised questions about how city leaders publicized the potential danger. Billingsley had earned time off of his sentence through Maryland’s system granting reductions for good behavior in prison, known as diminution credits.
While the details of the legislation still need to be worked out, Moore endorsed the idea Tuesday following an interview at a legislative preview in Annapolis hosted by The Baltimore Banner. The first-term Democrat said he hopes to see passage of the legislation aimed at tightening release opportunities for some incarcerated people, like Billingsley, convicted of sexual assault
Backers of the proposal, including Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates and Del. Elizabeth Embry, are expected to unveil the legislation later Tuesday.
Moore told reporters he has been talking with backers of the bill and going over specific language.
“I look forward to supporting the framework of the legislation as it makes it to my desk, and I encourage it to make it to my desk,” he said.
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 moveiup their release date.
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, including academic programs and other work details.
During his interview at The Banner event, Moore also discussed transportation cuts, the new Baltimore Orioles lease and Maryland’s sluggish economy. Also at the event, Maryland lawmakers, officials and advocates discussed navigating the state’s budget constraints, transportation funding, housing challenges and juvenile justice.
Here are a few highlight’s from The Banner’s legislative preview held at The Graduate in Annapolis:
- As the governor and lawmakers grapple with budget challenges, one option appears to be off the table: broad-based income tax increases. “Certainly this year, I think that we have the resources to avoid that,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat. “We have the the ability and skill to make the right decisions to live within our means this year.” But lawmakers will look at how to raise more money for the state’s needs in the long term. “We need to talk about revenue,” said House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat.
- Top Democratic leaders in Annapolis have made clear they are not looking to roll back juvenile justice reforms adopted a year ago, but they’ll look to make some alterations. Baltimore Del. Luke Clippinger, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, suggested Tuesday that lawmakers could look at extending the length of probation for young people this session to expand their access to services. And Montgomery County Sen. Will Smith, chair of the Senate’s judicial committee, said “one piece of legislation didn’t get us here and one piece of legislation won’t get us out,” arguing that the best deterrent will be “swift and certain consequences.”
- Though Maryland transportation officials announced Tuesday that they plan to dredge up funding this year to hold off cuts to the transportation budget, initially proposed at $3.3 billion over six years, a lack of sufficient revenue for transit remains a pressing problem for state leaders. Minority Leader Stephen Hershey, a Republican, argued that drivers in Maryland don’t want to see the taxes they pay for gasoline subsidizing public transit systems, while Baltimore Democratic Del. Robbyn Lewis floated the possibility of creating a new tax to fund investments in this infrastructure. “We can pay for things in a thousand ways,” said Lewis, “and I’d love to talk about a sales tax or an income tax on high earners to help for things that benefit us all.”
Baltimore Banner reporter Lillian Reed contributed to this story.