School volunteer guilty of molesting student - Witness account of 1997 assault of autistic boy is key.
Daniel Patrick Donohue was convicted Tuesday of molesting an autistic boy while volunteering at a specialized school in 1997.
A Broward Country jury took just one hour and 45 minutes before finding Donohue, 64, guilty of indecent assault. He faces a maximum prison term of 15 years when he is sentenced Dec,11.
"It was very difficult," said jury foreman L.B. Riley. "These were serious charges." Riley declined to discuss how the decision was reached.
Donohue did not testify during the trial. Since the victim was autistic and incapable of communicating what happened, the case hinged on a witness named Misty Miller, both sides agreed.
Miller was a 17-year-old high school student on Feb 26, 1997, when she claimed to see Donohue inappropriately touching the child at the Ralph J. Baudhuin Oral School at Nova Southeastern University. Prosecutor Stacey Honowitz painted Miller as a woman who had no reason to lie about what she saw, no vendetta against the defendant, and no way of knowing that he was already a convicted pedophile.
Donohue was able to volunteer at the school after falsely telling administrators that he had an autistic grandchild.
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Voluck tried to convince jurors that Miller was mistaken about what she saw. When the incident happened, Miller did not stop it and told no one about it until much later in the day.
"She didn't tell people because she had a doubt about what she saw," Voluck said. "And if she had a doubt, you have to have a doubt." But the jury did not agree.
After the verdict was read, Voluck said the jury was probably influenced by two men who testified Monday that Donohue molested them in California two decades ago. Donohue pleaded guilty in both cases and served four years in prison.
"Those prior convictions set the stage," Voluck said. He also said Donohue will appeal. Honowitz said she was "thrilled" with the verdict and plans to proceed with three other child molestation cases against Donohue. Although jurors were told of the previous convictions, they were not told of the pending charges.
The mother of the autistic boy at the center of the trail that ended Tuesday wept and smiled when the verdict was read. "I'm going home now to give my boy a big hug," she said.back