Man convicted in child porn case

A three-day jury trial for a Stephens City man accused of possessing child pornography ended Thursday evening with his conviction and sentencing in Frederick County Circuit Court.

The jury deliberated for almost three hours on evidence presented in the case of David Anthony Donatoni, 39, who faced 16 separate charges. The jurors – two women and 10 men – returned to court at around 5 p.m. to deliver a verdict that determined him to be guilty on seven counts.

With further deliberation, they recommended sentencing him to a total of two years’ confinement in jail: a 12-month sentence for the first charge and two months for each subsequent charge. Sentencing guidelines indicated that the conviction of possessing child pornography could carry a maximum imprisonment of five years and each conviction of subsequent possession of child pornography could have a maximum sentence of 10 years.

John Flannery II, Donatoni’s defense attorney, brought two witnesses to the stand after his client’s conviction, but before the jury deliberated on his sentence.

Jessica Donatoni, the defendant’s sister, gave an emotional testimony to how he is “not mentally stable,” with multiple conditions including bipolar II disorder and anxiety disorder. Michelle LaPorte, a licensed clinical social worker with her own practice in Winchester, also spoke about the conditions and said she’s worked with the defendant for about a year and a half.

Earlier Thursday morning, jurors heard closing arguments from Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Heather Enloe and Flannery. They’d already sat in court for two days of witness testimonies in what Judge Randy Bryant called an expertly and vehemently tried case.

Enloe began by reviewing her witness testimonies to the events of Jan. 15, 2014, when the federal search warrant was executed on the Donatonis’ house for suspicion of someone accessing and downloading suspected child pornography. Investigating agents had spoken to what she termed the “casualness and congeniality of the situation,” and she reminded the jury of the defendant’s reported admissions about downloading child porn in the past.

“At this point, the defendant’s statements are unrefuted – and what’s more, they’re verified,” she said, referring to an audio recording piece of evidence and witness “interpretation” of the low-quality sound.

Out of the jury’s presence, Flannery moved for a mistrial, calling Enloe’s reference to those “unrefuted” statements “reckless” and an “irreversible error” that goes against a defendant’s right not to testify. Bryant denied the motion.

Flannery told the jurors they were Donatoni’s last hope and defense from an unfair conviction. He rejected Enloe’s use of the word “congeniality” to describe the January 2014 interviews and search warrant, using previous testimony from Jessica Donatoni to illustrate a show of force, with agents flooding their house like a “gang of gangbusters.”

He said the jurors’ earlier discomfort when viewing images presented as the child porn files in question, combined with any presumptions they may have had about the charges, made the courtroom “sick with emotion.”

“This is a case about emotion triumphing over reason,” he said.

Flannery then tasked the jury with identifying the subject of each image themselves, asking them to question the reasons that Dr. Alan Rogol, an expert witness on pediatric endocrinology, had given as to why the subjects appeared to be under 18 years old.

Enloe rebutted on the defenses presented, reminding the jurors of Rogol’s medical certainty in declaring some of the image subjects to be minors.

Donatoni’s bond has been continued through the next court date in his case on Oct. 24 for further proceedings in sentencing, provided he and his family abide by certain rulings from the court.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

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