Daniel Billings shot and killed his ex-girlfriend this week. He should have been in jail at the time of this attack, but as happens too often, the sentencing judge showed leniency.
This system opted for the soft approach with no concern for the community. After events such as this, the rhetorical question usually asked by someone in the media is whether there was anything that could have been done to prevent this.
The answer is yes.
In July, suspect Billings beat his daughter and was charged with child abuse, a felony. On Assistant District Attorney Abbey Marzick’s motion, this was watered down to a simple battery and disorderly conduct.
Keep in mind that he struck a 16-year-old girl in the face with a closed fist, causing swelling, a bloody nose and broken capillaries in her eye (see criminal complaint). He then followed her into her house, and continued his assault against her using a belt, causing abrasions to her back and upper chest.
This was not a simple misdemeanor battery; it was the savage beating of a young girl.
Even when convicted of the lesser charges, Judge Mary Triggiano stayed a paltry twelve-month jail sentence and instead ordered anger management classes and that he have no contact with firearms.
That doesn’t work with a career criminal.
As a felon he has possessed firearms in the past. A month before sentencing on the beating of his daughter he violated his bail condition with a failed drug test. That is a bail jumping charge that was not issued. Instead he was scolded by Judge Triggiano. It is unknown if Billings completed the anger management course. If he did, it did not make a difference. The sentencing occurred in September 2012.
It appears that felons in possession of firearms have several resources for avoiding consequences in the Milwaukee County justice system, the defense attorney, the prosecutor and the sentencing judge. The defense attorney understandably fights for his/her client. The prosecutor is supposed to be on the side of society (the state) and the judge is supposed to hold criminals accountable upon conviction.
Instead, they aided and abetted a man whose criminal history shows convictions in 1991 for carrying a concealed weapon, felony weapons violations in 1994, and a federal case of felon in possession of firearm and short-barreled rifle in 2000. He was sentenced in federal court to more than 10 years in prison. About the only time he wasn’t committing crimes with guns and assaulting women was while he was in prison.
Domestic violence groups rightfully want to find ways to protect victims from abuse. When will the local media point out the glaring hole in the Milwaukee County criminal injustice system that releases violent perpetrators back into the community to prey on innocent people after receiving a slap on the wrist?
This murder was preventable.