Man wants to take back guilty plea |

Man wants to take back guilty plea

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Justin Daniel Donato didn’t lift his head or speak a word when his attorney filed a motion to reverse a guilty plea that saved the 19-year-old from spending years in state prison.

Donato, of South Lake Tahoe, is accused of participating in the rape of a drunk and unconscious 13-year-old girl at a party at South Lake Tahoe in December 2001.

A 14-year-old friend of Donato previously pleaded guilty to child molestation and spent 180 days in juvenile hall as a condition of probation.

El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Jerald Lasarow seemed ready to send Donato to state prison during sentencing Thursday.

“He knew she was drunk, sick and out of her mind throwing up. He decides to fondle, touch and have sex with her,” Lasarow said.

The drunken Donato allegedly stood guard as the 14-year-old reportedly raped the girl in an upstairs bedroom.

If convicted, Donato could receive a maximum of eight years and eight months in prison for felony counts of statutory rape conspiracy to commit rape on an unconscious victim.

He appeared in an orange jail jumpsuit, a uniform he has worn since he was placed in custody in January. His curly brown hair appeared unwashed and long strands of dyed hair were pushed back onto his scalp.

The 14-year-old and victim were locked in a bathroom for 45 minutes before the bedroom incident. When the two came out, Donato joined them in the room.

A doctor’s report detailed Donato as withdrawn and socially awkward among his peers.

He has no prior criminal record.

The doctor’s report wouldn’t classify Donato as a pedophile, but Lasarow had a different opinion.

“If you hang around a lot of young people, you might be,” he said.

Lasarow also doubted the defense’s argument that Donato was induced into the rape by his friend.

“I don’t see how a 14-year-old can tell this young man what to do,” he said.

Judge Suzanne Kingsbury will review the case on Aug. 16 at 8:30 a.m. If she denies the motion to withdraw the plea, the case will be sent back for sentencing.

If Kingsbury grants the motion, the matter will go to trial within 60 days from Aug. 16.

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