MEADVILLE – A Meadville man’s long-fought legal battle is expected to continue even after he was sentenced on Monday. Judge Anthony Vardaro ordered 58-year-old Meadville resident John M. Donahue to serve a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and pay a fifty-thousand dollar fine.
Donahue was found guilty in 2009 of possession of marijuana and cocaine, but in January of 2010 Judge Vardaro dismissed all the evidence and granted Donahue the right to a new trial because of the manner in which the evidence was obtained. Multiple marijuana plants and cocaine were seized by police, acting on the testimony of a confidential informant who burglarized Donahue’s house. Vardaro did not trust the testimony of the CI, and it was implied in court documents that the arresting officer, Brian Joseph, formerly of the Meadville City Police, may have had too close a relationship with the CI, Donald Fredericks, to be trustworthy.
District Attorney Francis Schultz appealed and in June of 2011, the Commonwealth Court overturned Vardaro’s 2010 ruling. The superior court ruled that there was no reason to believe Officer Joseph had prior knowledge of Frederick’s burglary of Donahue’s house. So it was back to Vardaro’s courtroom Monday morning, where the five-year-minimum sentence was handed down. Donahue’s attorney refused to be recorded for comment, but did tell us he plans to appeal the sentence. He has 30 days to do so.
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