Donovan pleads guilty to rape, home invasion
Scott Donovan, age 36 and formerly of Tisbury, pled guilty in Dukes County Superior Court in Edgartown yesterday to aggravated rape, home invasion, kidnapping, and assault. The charges stem from a horrific attack on a West Tisbury woman in her home in the summer of 2006. Mr. Donovan will be sentenced this morning.
The dramatic turn of events came following the second day of jury selection, but before a full jury was impaneled to try the eight charges against Mr. Donovan.
"Who decided to plead guilty to these charges?" asked Associate Justice Mary-Lou Rup.
"I did," replied Mr. Donovan.
"Why," asked the judge.
"Because I believe I'm guilty," replied Mr. Donovan.
File Photo by Aubrey Gibavic
With those words, Mr. Donovan agreed to change his not guilty pleas and admit to the facts outlined by police and the prosecutor.
If convicted in a jury trial, Mr. Donovan could have been sentenced to life in prison, on the charges of aggravated rape or home invasion.
At the sentencing this morning, Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marshard will recommend a 30- to 40-year state prison sentence, followed by a 30-year probationary period. Ms. Marshard also has the right to petition the court to commit Mr. Donovan indefinitely to a prison facility for violent sex offenders, after he has served his jail term.
During her sentencing recommendation, Ms. Marshard said, "She's simply lucky to be alive," of the victim of Mr. Donovan's assault.
Defense attorney Thomas Mello asked the judge to impose a 15-year prison sentence and a five-year period of probation. "The facts are egregious," said Mr. Mello. "Mr. Donovan did plead guilty, and did accept responsibility."
Mr. Mello also asked the judge to consider that Mr. Donovan had attempted suicide in the hours after the attack, though Mr. Mello stressed that did not excuse the crimes he committed.
Judge Rup accepted the guilty pleas, but she is not bound to accept the recommendation of either the prosecutor or the defense attorney for sentencing. She indicated however, that she did not intend to exceed the prosecutor's recommendation.
The victim of the rape was in court, weeping quietly as the prosecutor recounted the brutal attack for the judge.
In a statement written by her and read into the record by Ms. Marshard, the victim said she has had extensive medical treatment for facial injuries and suffered from debilitating vertigo for nearly a year following the attack. She has moved off the Island, she wrote, to keep from being constantly reminded of the attack.
"My concern is that he not have the opportunity to do this to another woman," wrote the victim. "Someone else with a little less luck might not have survived. I want him off the street until he is so old and infirm that he can't possibly do this again."
Ms. Marshard told the judge she would have presented evidence to prove Mr. Donovan had planned the attack for days. She said the evidence would show that Mr. Donovan had a long infatuation with the victim, but that she had rejected his advances. Ms. Marshard charged that in the early morning hours of August 28, Mr. Donovan broke into the victim's home wearing gloves and a ski mask, and threatened her with a large knife. According to the police report, she fought off her attacker and escaped from the home, but he caught her and bludgeoned her face repeatedly with a grapefruit-sized rock. He then forced her back into the home, bound her with phone cords, computer cords, tape, and a scarf, and raped her twice.
Ms. Marshard told the judge Mr. Donovan had previously been convicted of aggravated rape in Western Massachusetts in 1998, and had been out of prison a relatively short time before the West Tisbury attack.
On Tuesday, and continuing into yesterday morning, Judge Rup began the process of selecting a jury, a process that proved difficult because of the widespread publicity the case has already received, and because many potential jurors knew people included on a long list of police officers, doctors, nurses, emergency medical personnel, crime scene investigators, chemists, and crime lab technicians who might have been called to testify.
On Tuesday, only five people were seated on the jury from a pool of 35 people called to jury duty. On Wednesday, four more people were chosen from a pool of 31 people.