, Salem, MA

Local News

November 6, 2010

Man convicted in fake shooting wants new trial

HAMILTON — More than three years after he was convicted of filing a false police report after a "bizarre and premeditated" staged shooting outside his Cambridge business, Hamilton multimillionaire John Donovan Sr. wants another trial.

And this time, he wants to testify.

But it's unclear whether he'll get that chance. The original trial judge has already denied his motion for a new trial, saying there are no grounds to retry the case.

Donovan, a former MIT professor and business guru, called 911 in December 2005 to report that two "Russian-sounding hit men" had opened fire on his minivan.

He immediately fingered one of his sons, with whom he was locked in a fierce legal battle over the family fortune. Even before police could get Donovan's location out of him, he was telling the 911 dispatcher that the hit men had been sent by his son.

He suffered two superficial wounds to his belly, which doctors said appeared to come from a single bullet fired through a handful of flesh pulled out from his abdomen.

Donovan and his current lawyer, J.W. Carney, argued unsuccessfully in their motion for a new trial that Donovan's former lawyers — two noted Boston criminal defense attorneys — were "ineffective" because they prevented him from rebutting evidence of what prosecutors called a "to-do" list found in Donovan's jacket after the shooting.

Donovan says he has a logical explanation for each of those seemingly incriminating words on the list — words like "8 shells," "4 outside," "gloves," "rifle," "add lead," "fake happy," "belly" and "belt." But only by taking the stand would he be able to explain what those were, he argues.

Among his explanations: "8 shells" was really "8 horse stalls" he planned to build on his land, though, according to a judge's ruling denying his request for a new trial, he now says that they referred to bikini tops on Little Mermaid balloons he wanted for a surprise party for his wife, four of them outside his home.

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