PLATTSBURGH — State Police began investigating Trooper Trevor J. Donah for possible abuse of an ex-girlfriend after a call from an uncle of the Plattsburgh man, who’s on trial for rape.
On the stand in Clinton County Court on Tuesday, Daniel Yando testified that he was trying to get psychological help for his nephew.
He described how, on visits to his home, Donah would use body locks on the woman, sometimes twisting her arm to the point that she would “scream out.”
“I didn’t think it was normal behavior,” Yando said.
Under cross-examination, defense attorney Brian Barrett suggested the woman and Donah were playfully wrestling.
‘WANTED TO PROTECT HIM’
Donah, 33, 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.
State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Senior Investigator Kevin Levine testified that in September 2012 Yando called him and said Donah had abused his girlfriend and needed help.
It was one day that month, after the couple had broken up, that the woman went to Donah’s apartment to return an item to him, special prosecutor Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Gary Pasqua said in opening statements Tuesday.
Donah tried to kiss her, Pasqua said, but she told him to stop, telling him she had a boyfriend.
Pasqua said Donah pushed his ex into the bedroom and onto the bed, pulling her underwear down and, despite her efforts to leave the apartment, raped her.
She told no one what had happened, including police, because she loved Donah, wanted to protect him and, in some ways, was dependent on him, the ADA said.
Lorraine White, also an defense attorney for Donah, countered that in her opening statement, saying her client’s former girlfriend “did not handle rejection well.
“Her heartbreak quickly turned to anger and her anger to vengeance.”
She also pointed to the absence of physical evidence, including no initial police reports, photographs, records of emergency-room visits or rape-kit findings.
“What we have here is words and words alone.”
BOSS, FRIEND WILL TESTIFY
Pasqua described four instances of alleged emotional, physical and sexual abuse that include two alleged strangulations and physical battering over the course of Donah’s roughly one-year relationship with the woman.
He said she showed her boss and a friend marks and bruises Donah had given her, and they will testify.
Pasqua said Donah had a “rough childhood,” to which White and Barrett objected.
Clinton County Court Judge Patrick McGill sustained the objection, saying Donah’s childhood was out of the scope of the case.
Pasqua said police contacted the ex-girlfriend, and she told investigators about the abuse but then denied it to a State Police captain.
The alleged victim, although an “educated woman,” the ADA said, continued to return to Donah despite the abuse.
“She has made some horrific choices.”
During Yando’s testimony, he told the court that in spring 2012, he and an aunt of Donah’s, Jill Shumway, talked to Donah, encouraging him to break up with his girlfriend immediately and seek help from State Police because of the abuse he was inflicting on the woman and for his “psychological issues.”
He said that, during that conversation, Donah told them about something his girlfriend would say or do that would act as a “trigger mechanism” that would bring on “emotional outbursts” that he tied to unhappy childhood experiences.
Yando said his nephew said then that he would get help, adding that he cried “multiple times” during their conversation.
Barrett cross-examined Yando, attempting to discredit his testimony by asking the witness if he recalled being arrested about 20 years ago. He asked Yando if he is jealous of Donah, and whether he remembered Donah telling him (Yando) he wanted to take a relative of Yando to a psychiatric hospital.
Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Crawford asked Yando if the incident concerning his brother had influenced Yando’s decision to talk to State Police.
Yando said it did not and that he was testifying because he had been subpoenaed.
The prosecution requested a conference with the judge in chambers regarding an upcoming witness, and afterward, McGill adjourned for the day shortly after 3 p.m.
The trial is set to resume at 9:30 a.m. today.
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