February 4, 2014

State-trooper rape case goes to jury


---- — PLATTSBURGH — No verdict was returned in Trevor J. Donah's rape trial on Monday.

The jury in Clinton County Court began its deliberations shortly after 2 p.m.; court adjourned at 4:30.

Donah, 33, is a State Police trooper.

On Monday morning in closing statements, the defense painted the woman who says he raped and otherwise abused her as a vindictive ex-girlfriend who changed her story when interviewed by police.

The prosecution directed the jury's attention to the woman's testimony, during which she said she lied to protect Donah since she still cared for him.


"This is a case about words and words alone," defense attorney Brian Barrett told the jury, adding that the people who testified were strangers to the jury.

He went through the alleged instances of abuse, emphasizing the woman's level of intoxication when Donah allegedly slammed her head into the console of his pickup truck after a party.

As far as the physical assaults the woman said she was subjected to by Donah, Barrett said that those kinds of interactions were common between the couple, as the woman had testified that Donah had taught her jujitsu and defensive tactics and trained her at the gym.


Barrett later called Donah a "health nut" and referenced the man's spiritual beliefs, saying, "We do not convict people on strange beliefs or speculation."

Although the witnesses who testified had cellphones capable of taking pictures, no photos were taken of the bruises the victim said she suffered after Donah choked her, he emphasized.

State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Senior Investigator John Donohue had testified that there weren't any surveillance cameras at Texas Roadhouse in Plattsburgh. That is where the alleged victim, who worked there at the time, said she had gone after Donah assaulted her in his apartment.

The woman testified that she had been wearing a green skirt that day; restaurant manager Courtney Rice had told the court the woman was wearing flannel pajama pants and also testified there were red marks on her neck.

Barrett suggested it could have been a "hickey" or an allergic reaction or "something the woman had done to herself."

He cautioned the jury: "If you have one amount of reasonable doubt, then you must not convict Trevor Donah."


Witness testimony is evidence, Franklin County District Attorney Elizabeth said during her closing statement in response to Barrett's claim of "words alone."

"We don't need DNA. This isn't a 'whodunnit.'"

And Crawford said Donah's ex was not a stranger to the jury, as she had testified for a day and a half about what had happened to her.

"You got to determine her credibility," the assistant district attorney said. "Does she look like this vindictive woman that the defense wants you to believe she is? 

"Absolutely not."

The woman was truthful with investigators the first time they interviewed her, Crawford said.

Her subsequent false statements to police were an effort to keep Donah from getting in trouble, she said, echoing the woman's testimony.


"She cared about him," Crawford said.

In response to the conflicting testimony on whether the woman was wearing pajama pants or a skirt, the ADA said, the jury does not know whether the woman had changed clothes in the car or if Rice accurately remembered what she was wearing.

Because wrestling was a part of the couple's relationship, Donah does not face charges for all the times they wrestled, the ADA noted.

But he took things too far on the occasions that the woman described on the stand, Crawford said — Donah didn't let go when she told him to stop, only applied more pressure.


"It's power and control," Crawford said about why Donah did what he allegedly did to his ex-girlfriend.

She read a text-message conversation that had not previously been heard in court that the jury can review in deliberations.

"I need some space for a while," Donah had texted the woman in October 2013.

The alleged rape happened in September of that year.

"I don't know why I keep falling into your trap," the woman had written back. "I lied to the police for you."


Crawford said that while members of the jury may have a different idea of what rape is, they must follow the judge's instructions when he tells them they are to convict or acquit based on the law.

Pertaining to this case, New York State Penal Law defines first-degree rape as engaging in sexual intercourse with another person by forcible compulsion.

Sexual intercourse is defined by the law as "any penetration, however slight," she said.

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Trevor J. Donah is accused in this trial of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse, both felonies, and five misdemeanors: two counts of third-degree assault, two counts of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation and one charge of second-degree unlawful imprisonment.