A state appeals court has denied the first of two appeals filed by a Genoa City couple who were sentenced to prison in 2016 for abusing a boy who came to their home after he was abused elsewhere.
The appellate court ruled against Michael G. Donahue’s request for a new trial because of an ineffective defense lawyer, according to the decision filed Sept. 19 by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals District II, which is based in Waukesha and considers Walworth County cases.
The appeals court has not yet filed a decision in the case of Carrie M. Donahue, Michael’s wife, who made a similar claim of ineffective counsel.
At their spring 2016 trial, a jury found Carrie, 41, and Michael, 50, guilty of party to false imprisonment, mental harm to a child and child neglect.
The jury also found Carrie guilty of child abuse by intentionally causing harm. Michael was acquitted of that charge.
At an emotional sentencing hearing where 15 friends, family and co-workers of the Donahues spoke on their behalf, Judge David Reddy sentenced the couple to prison—Carrie to six years with four years of extended supervision and Michael to four years with three years of supervision.
Reddy also sentenced the couple to nine months in jail after their release from prison.
Among the accusations, prosecutors said the Donahues did not feed the boy, locked him in a bedroom for up to 12 hours at a time, and forced him to urinate in the bedroom and in his clothes.
The boy lived with the Donahues in 2013 after his mother and her boyfriend abused him.
At their sentencing, the Donahues said they struggled to parent the boy, saying he had behavior problems because of his previous abuse.
“Society cannot and will not tolerate these crimes against children,” Reddy said at the July 2016 hearing. “Even as inmates, you will be provided the sort of humane treatment you deprived of this child.”
Online court records list Michael’s new address as the Fox Lake Correctional Institution. Carrie is at the Taycheedah Correctional Institution in Fond du Lac.
Michael’s appeal centered on testimony from a contractor who renovated the home the Donahues previously occupied, according to the decision.
The contractor testified for the prosecution that “a bedroom with boy’s clothes reeked of urine, had feces smeared on the walls, had a window that was screwed shut and, unlike other rooms in the house, was fitted with a lock on the door,” the decision states.
Neither of Michael or Carrie’s defense attorneys objected to the contractor’s testimony.
The appeals court ruled that decision was not an error that made the trial unfair, and objections would not have produced a different result.
“We will not recite the abundant evidence from numerous witnesses over the nine-day trial that catalogued the Donahues’ unspeakable cruelty to (the boy),” the decision states.