Tyler Watkins Davis entered an Alford plea February 8, and though it’s technically a guilty plea, it means the man from Middleburg, Florida, is not admitting guilt, but acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him of malicious wounding in the brutal parking garage assault of DeAndre Harris.
Defense attorney Matthew Engle said his 50-year-old client doesn’t challenge the fact that he bashed Harris in the head with a wooden tire thumper, which caused severe trauma and required eight stitches, but he does dispute that it was done with malicious intent.
If the case went to trial, Engle said he would have argued that Davis perceived a threat outside the Market Street Parking Garage and was acting in self defense when he clobbered Harris—and that he did not intend to maim, disfigure, or kill Harris, which is required to meet the standard of actual malice.
Judge Rick Moore has often referred to the racially-charged beating as the worst he’s ever seen, but unlike the other men who participated, Engle noted that Davis only hit Harris once, and backed off when the others piled on.
When participants Jacob Goodwin and Alex Ramos went to trial for their roles in the attack, they were sentenced to eight and six years, respectively. Daniel Borden, who pleaded guilty, was given a lesser sentence of three years and 10 months in January. Davis faces a maximum sentence of 20 years, and will be sentenced in August.
Davis wasn’t caught until months after the others—and he may have Goodwin’s lawyer to thank for his arrest. At one of Goodwin’s hearings, attorney Elmer Woodard played a video of the assault, and asked why police had not arrested Davis, the then-unknown man wearing a wide-brimmed hat, whom Woodard dubbed “Boonie Hat” as he continually referred to Davis’ role in the beating. It wasn’t long after that that Davis was in cuffs.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nina Antony said the two other men who can also be seen attacking Harris in the viral video have not yet been identified.