Former Delco assistant district attorney guilty in hit and run

By Jon Campisi | Nov 25, 2012

Michael Donohue had been accustomed to being on the other side of the courtroom.

Michael Donohue had been accustomed to being on the other side of the courtroom.

But that changed earlier this week when he found himself at the defense table during a jury trial to determine whether he was guilty of committing a hit-and-run that left a young teenage boy injured a year ago.

The Delaware County jury on Nov. 19 ended up finding Donohue, 32, guilty of fleeing the scene of an accident involving personal injury, meaning the former assistant prosecutor could see the inside of a jail cell, that very place in which he used to send others.

Donohue, formerly an assistant district attorney in Delaware County, which neighbors Philadelphia, had been arrested and charged following the Nov. 14, 2011, incident in which a 14-year-old Havertown boy was struck while in the area of Township Line Road and Bryan Street in Upper Darby, according to local news reports.

Court records show that Donohue was originally charged with aggravated assault, aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence, aggravated assault by vehicle, and accidents involving death or personal injury, all felonies, as well as simple assault, a second-degree misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor charge of recklessly endangering another person was withdrawn prior to trial.

In the end, he was found guilty of fleeing the scene of an accident involving personal injury, a misdemeanor, as well as four summary offenses: reckless driving, failing to stop and give or render aid, failing to not report the accident to police, and careless driving.

The case was prosecuted by Joseph E. McGettigan of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and E. Marc Costanzo of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office because of a potential conflict of interest if the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office had been involved given that that was Donohue’s former place of employment.

The Delaware County Daily Times reported that Donohue had been at a bar in Media, Pa. for hours before the crash, and prosecutors had attempted to prove at trial that Donohue was intoxicated at the time he struck the teenager, identified as Jake Vantrieste of Haverford, Delaware County.

The newspaper said that Vantrieste, who sustained pelvic fractures and head injuries due to the incident, had testified that he smoked marijuana before crossing the intersection on his skateboard, and also that he was listening to headphones and wearing a hooded sweatshirt at the time.

Donohue’s coworkers testified during trial that Donohue had ordered about nine beers while at the pub, the Daily Times reported, although some of those drinks were consumed by friends, they said.

Some of those colleagues testified that they did not believe Donohue was legally drunk at the time of the accident.

In the end, Donohue was acquitted of DUI and aggravated assault charges. (Police were unable to give Donohue an alcohol test because too much time had passed between the accident and when Donohue was discovered).

In court, prosecutor McGettigan described Donohue’s actions as “cowardice,” the Daily Times reported, although he said it’s good that the time for Donohue to take responsibility had finally come.

While Donohue had been free on 10 percent of $25,000 bail since his arrest, the bail amount was raised by the judge to $100,000 cash following the conviction, and Donohue was immediately remanded to custody, court records and media reports show.

The criminal docket sheet shows that a presentencing hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 20.

The Daily Times reported that the hit and run charge was a misdemeanor because the jury determined it did not result in “serious” bodily injury to the victim.

Donohue, who had worked for the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office for five years, resigned from his job around the time of his arrest.

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