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.
"Fake happy," Donovan says, is a reference to "take happy," a reminder to take his medication.
Donovan received what turned out to be two "superficial" wounds to his abdomen from a bullet that appeared to have entered through one side and then out the other without actually entering the abdominal cavity — as if someone had grabbed a handful of flesh and shot through it. The wound was not bleeding.
He also coughed up a bullet fragment and had a piece of glass lodged in his ear and cuts on his face, but no internal injuries were found.
The lack of more serious injuries and the list in his jacket pocket ultimately led investigators to conclude that Donovan had staged the incident.
But Donovan says investigators misinterpreted his writing.
In a ruling filed in August, Judge Kenneth Fishman, the original trial judge, rejected Donovan's motion for a new trial.
Fishman said Donovan's lawyers "reasonably concluded that there were several obvious risks" to putting Donovan on the stand, including the fact that Donovan's explanations "created a substantial risk of being rejected as implausible and contrived."
Now, Donovan — who has already completed two years of probation and 200 hours of community service and paid a $500 fine — is taking his case to the Appeals Court.
"He simply wants to clear his name," Carney said.