No court decision yet on Donlon’s extradition as his sister pleads for bail

ALBANY — At an extradition hearing Feb. 1 in federal court in Albany, the public defender representing Irishman Raymond Donlon — whom Irish authorities want to try on almost 400 charges related to years of sex abuse of two boys — asked the judge to release Donlon on bail as the extradition process unfolds.

Donlon, 38, had been living in Guilderland since last April, according to court documents.

Ireland is seeking the extradition of Donlon on 394 charges of “protracted sexual abuse” of two boys, one from age 11 to 16, and the other from age 13 to 15, over a decade ago. His accusers came forward beginning in 2012, according to the complaint against Donlon; the investigation into the first accuser’s charges led to the other boy.  

The charges include 177 counts of rape, 210 counts of sexual assault, and one count each of false imprisonment, harassment, and damage to property.

The two boys met Donlon through his work as a former coach, sports photographer, and office administrator at a sporting ground in Longford, Ireland, according to the complaint.

Federal public defender Michael McGeown-Walker said in court on Feb. 1 that the crowded confines of jail could prove life-threatening for Donlon because of his long-standing health issues — mainly a weakened immune system that resulted from a congenital heart defect.

Donlon also suffers from several other conditions including diabetes and “some fairly significant skin issues,” McGeown-Walker said, arguing that all of these health problems pose “special circumstances.” Judge Daniel J. Stewart of the Northern District of New York had noted that there is usually a presumption against bail in extradition cases, but that a bail request could be considered if there were special circumstances.

The purpose of the hearing was to determine if Donlon’s case meets the legal criteria for “extraditability.” That is the first step in the process, Assistant United States Attorney Emmet J. O’Hanlon explained in court Friday. If Judge Stewart rules that Donlon is extraditable, the United States Secretary of State would then make the decision about whether to extradite him.

Donlon has been living in the United States for “two or three years” and has “received not so much as a traffic ticket,” McGeown-Walker said in court.

Police have not received any reports about Donlon having abused anyone during his time in Guilderland, Assistant United States Attorney Michael Barnett told The Enterprise earlier. Barnett added that anyone with information about Donlon is asked to call Homeland Security Investigation’s Albany Office at 518-220-2129.

Donlon was not trying to hide in the United States, McGeown-Walker said in court, but was living “openly and honestly” under his own name. He had never fled Ireland but had offered, along with his attorney, to meet with police there when the charges were made; his offer to meet with them was “declined,” McGeown-Walker said, and Donlon then fulfilled a lifelong dream to live in the United States.

This differs from the account in the complaint, which says that after search warrants were executed on Donlon’s residences in Ireland, Donlon’s attorney offered to meet with investigators, but Donlon fled.

The federal public defender asked the judge to either release Donlon back to his own apartment in Guilderland’s Carpenter Village or to the care of his sister, Catherine Donlon, in New York City.

Catherine Donlon spoke in court, saying she has always been very close with her “baby brother,” whom she said is 17 years younger than she is. She believes “with every fiber of her being” that Donlon would never harm anyone, she told the judge, although the purpose of the hearing was not to determine whether Donlon is guilty, but only whether a reasonable person could entertain the idea that he is guilty.

Donlon has a job as a sales-promotion manager with the travel agency Celtic Tours and could work at either the Albany location as he has been or in New York City, the judge heard. McGeown-Walker identified a woman seated next to Donlon’s sister in the gallery as his boss at Celtic Tours and she said she also supports his release.

Those present at court on Friday heard that Donlon had a permanent-residency card to live in the United States — his permanent-residency card was one of the items seized by authorities when he was arrested on Jan. 16. McGeown-Walker said in court that Donlon had applied for naturalization.

McGeown-Walker also called into question whether the items seized at the time of Donlon’s arrest had been seized lawfully. McGeown-Walker argued that Donlon could not have given consent, under the circumstances, for the search of his apartment that turned up electronic items including a cell phone, iPad, and laptop.

The federal defender outlined the circumstances of Donlon’s arrest, saying that numerous officers with guns drawn had pulled Donlon from his vehicle, brought him to the entryway of his apartment building, and told him they wanted to search his apartment.

McGeown-Walker asked the judge, if he does deny bail, to hold Donlon in a facility closer to New York City, so that his sister can visit. Donlon has been held until now in Rensselaer County’s jail, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett told The Enterprise earlier.

O’Hanlon told the judge that Donlon “has a significant incentive to flee,” especially since learning of the charges that would await him in Ireland, many of which carry maximum sentences of 10 years or more.

Judge Stewart said that he would reserve judgment on both extradition and bail for the time being and said that he expected to make a decision “early next week.”

 

Memorandum

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