February 1, 2014

Prosecution, defense rest in Donah trial


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Trevor J. Donah’s aunt Mary Jill Shumway said in court Friday that his ex-girlfriend had texted her after the alleged rape in September 2012.

“She said, ‘Your nephew does not take no for answer.’”

Shumway was one of four witnesses to testify Friday. The prosecution wrapped up its case, and the defense rested before court broke for lunch.

Jury deliberations will likely begin Monday.


On the stand Friday morning, Shumway continued her testimony, saying her nephew’s ex had followed her texts with a phone call that day in September 2011.

Shumway testified that the woman told her that she had gone to Donah’s apartment, he had kissed her, that he had “wanted to go farther than kissing” and that he threw his ex on the couch and pulled her panties down.

“He entered her but didn’t finish the act,” Shumway said the woman had told her. “He didn’t stop until she screamed out.”

Shumway said she asked the woman if she had been raped and that she replied that she didn’t like that word but did say she had been sexually assaulted.


Then Shumway testified to seeing Donah and the woman wrestling on more than one occasion.

The two visited her home in Vermont frequently for a time when they were dating.

“He took her arm, and he bent it behind her back,” she said.

When cross-examined by defense attorney Brian Barrett, Shumway said that during one of the incidents, Donah had said, “‘Do you give? Do you give?’” and when the woman said yes, he had released her.


Shumway said Donah’s former girlfriend had texted her in April 2012, saying he had choked her.

After that, the witness said, she contacted Donah, asking to meet with him.

Shumway went to Donah’s apartment with Daniel Yando, her brother. He has also testified in the case.

She said she asked Donah whether he had assaulted his girlfriend and that he answered, “I didn’t do that. We had an argument. Things got out of hand.”


Shumway said that when she pressed him as to why he had lost his temper, he told her, “She reminds me of my mother.”

Although Donah said the woman didn’t look like his mother, he said that she had said something that his mother had said to him in the past, Shumway testified.

“He became very emotional. It was difficult to watch.”

Donah told his aunt that his ex had told him to “(expletive) off” in the April 2012 incident, Shumway said.

Shumway said he told her, “‘When I was a child, she spoke to me that way,” referring to his mother.

“He said he used to pray every night for someone to rescue him.”

Then, Shumway said, Donah told her that he had chased his girlfriend into the bedroom and choked her.

Shumway said she told her nephew he needed to see a doctor and get psychiatric help, which he agreed to do.


Also testifying for the prosecution on Friday morning was Dr. Eileen Tracy, an expert on domestic violence, sexual assault and rape.

Tracy said that some victims may return to their abuser two to three times before ending a relationship, while others may never leave their partner or report the abuse they suffer.

“It is less common for a victim to make a full disclosure ... the first time they report it,” she said.

She also said it is difficult for a victim to report abuse if the perpetrator is in a position of power, offering the analogy of the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal.

Victims are less likely to report attackers that they know, as opposed to a stranger, Tracy told the jury.

“Because the love that they have is a distorted love, they have an attachment,” she said. “It’s almost like, ‘I can’t live without you.’”

Barrett questioned her about the psychological tests that applicants must take before they can become troopers, and Tracy said the results of those examinations do not indicate whether there is a tendency toward abuse.

She also said she has testified in hundreds of criminal trials and that the conviction rate for those proceedings is about 90 percent.

“I don’t believe any of them were falsely convicted,” she said.


Before Barrett began calling witnesses, he asked Judge Patrick McGill to dismiss all the charges against Donah relating to this trial, saying the prosecution had not sufficiently proven its case.

In response, Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Gary Pasqua said, “The testimony from the victim, I believe, speaks for itself.”

McGill reserved decision on Barrett’s request.


Dr. Emilia Krol, who identified herself as Donah’s fiancee, took the stand for the defense, saying that she and Donah had met the same week he and his ex had broken up, in the first week of July 2012.

Krol said that at Donah’s Plattsburgh apartment, she could hear often hear a dog barking in the apartment next door and that it sometimes woke her.

She also said a neighbor had complained when she and Donah had played music too loudly.

On Thursday, Barrett had asked State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Senior Investigator John Donohue if he had tested the acoustics of Donah’s apartment.

Donohue said he had not done any formal testing but that when checked to see if he could hear a dog barking “from apartment to apartment,” he could not.


The last person to testify was Robin Bresette, who said she was at the birthday party that Donah and his then-girlfriend had attended together at Meron’s bar in Plattsburgh.

The alleged victim had previously testified that Donah had “slammed” her head into the center console of his truck after they left the bar.

Bresette said she had seen Donah’s ex drinking alcohol at the party and saw her fall while she was dancing with her and some others.

After the woman fell, she said, “The speaker was falling over, and the DJ came over to catch the speaker, and we helped her (Donah’s ex) up.”


Then Bresette spoke about a time in February 2013 when she had seen Donah’s ex at Champlain Centre mall in Plattsburgh.

The witness testified that the woman had told her that she had heard Donah was dating someone else and then told her that “‘he was jeopardizing (the new girlfriend’s health) and that he was going to pay for it.’”

Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Crawford asked Bresette if she had told police in her February 2013 statement that the alleged victim said Donah was going to “pay for it.”

Bresette replied no, then, “that doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t say it.”

Email Felicia Krieg:fkrieg@pressrepublican.comTwitter: @FeliciaKrieg