Press-Republican

November 7, 2013

Trooper found not guilty

Jury clears Trevor Donah of charges; faces two more trials

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Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — State Police Trooper Trevor Donah was found not guilty Wednesday in Clinton County Court of attempted rape and two other felony charges.

In February, he was indicted on charges of first-degree attempted rape, first-degree unlawful imprisonment and second-degree assault in connection with accusations from a former girlfriend.

After about 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on all charges.

EMOTIONAL REACTION

One of Donah’s family members was audibly sobbing as the verdict was presented to the court.

He began sobbing as well after all three not-guilty verdicts were read.

He turned to embrace family members and his attorneys, Brian Barrett and co-counsel Lorraine White.

“An innocent man was vindicated by the truth today,” White said upon exiting the courtroom.

“I’m happy the jury saw this for what it was and that Trooper Donah was acquitted,” Barrett said.

Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Crawford declined to comment.

ATTACK TESTIMONY

On the stand last week, Donah’s ex-girlfriend testified that one night in September 2008 she had confronted Donah after finding intimate emails between him and another woman.

She said Donah had attacked her, pushing her into a wall and down the hall into the bedroom.

He threw her up against a wall, she said, and she had landed on the bed.

Donah pinned her there and, at one point, strangled her for between 15 and 30 seconds, she testified.

CLOSING STATEMENTS

Barrett delivered his closing statement first Wednesday morning, drawing the jury’s attention to what he said were inconsistencies in the woman’s testimony.

In grand-jury proceedings in February, Donah’s ex had said the attack had lasted for 20 minutes, and at the trial she testified its duration was about 30 minutes.

“She wasn’t timing it (the attack),” Crawford said in response during her closing. “She was estimating.”

Barrett also said it didn’t make sense for the woman to wait more than four years before telling someone what had happened.

“When given the opportunity (to come forward) more than 1,500 days later, she started to tell a story she thought would be unchecked,” Barrett told the jury. 

“The thing about a story, especially by someone that we don’t know, is that it can be pulled out of thin air.”

‘CONSISTENT WITH SYNDROME’

Crawford said the woman’s behavior mirrored the three stages of a condition known as battered-woman syndrome, which were outlined by Dr. Don Lewittes, a clinical and forensic psychologist who testified on Monday.

Women who are abused sometimes never tell anyone, and they may not divulge all the details of an assault, Crawford told the jury before deliberations, echoing Lewittes’s testimony.

Barrett drew attention to the absence of physical evidence in the case.

Donah’s ex testified that she had taken pictures of the injuries she sustained from the alleged attack but said she had deleted them several months later when she started dating her current husband.

OTHER WITNESSES

Haley Barrigar, a former co-worker of the woman, testified that she saw what appeared to be a bruise on the side of the woman’s neck but couldn’t tell Barrett exactly when she had seen it.

The two other witnesses to testify for the prosecution were Dr. Russell Hartung and State Police Sgt. Robert Hugus.

Hartung, who is specially trained in strangulation, spoke about the serious physical injuries a person can sustain as a result of being strangled.

Hugus detailed the “carotid restraint” defensive tactic that trooper recruits are taught at the academy.

The woman testified that Donah had used several of those defensive tactics on her.

The defense did not call any witnesses to the stand.

OTHER TRIALS

Donah has been a trooper based out of the Plattsburgh barracks for five years and has been on paid leave since March.

He is slated for two other trials associated with two other women on charges including rape, assault and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation.

Email Felicia Krieg:

fkrieg@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @FeliciaKrieg