Donnell Thomas

On July 31, 2006 Kelonda Thomas left her home in Huntington Station, New York, to pay a bill, leaving her three daughters from a previous marriage with her husband, 22-year-old Donnell Thomas.

She returned abruptly because she forgot some paperwork and found Thomas sitting on a bed with her seven-year-old daughter. Kelonda shouted at them because she thought—based on their positions—that they were engaged in a sex act. Thomas denied the accusation and said he was playing a video game. However, Kelonda took the girl and her two sisters from the home and went to a neighbor who ran a day care center.

Kelonda then called police and after the girl told police that Thomas had forced her to perform oral sex on him, Thomas was arrested and charged with committing a first degree criminal sex act, first degree criminal sex abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

Thomas went on trial in Suffolk County Supreme Court. Kelonda Thomas testified and said she believed Thomas and her daughter had been engaged in oral sex, but stopped when she came home unexpectedly. The defense noted that her 911 call to police was more ambiguous. On the call, Kelonda said, “She was sitting on the bed, and umm… he was making her have oral sex.  But she said they didn’t, it didn’t start because I walked in.  He was umm… convincing her to do it and he was in her face, I walked in on it.”

The girl testified and said Thomas had forced her to perform oral sex on him. The prosecution also presented the girl’s similar statement to police.

The defense sought to present a portion of Thomas’s grand jury testimony during which he said he told the investigating detective that he was innocent and that he would take a polygraph test and give up his blood to prove it.

On May 2, 2007, the jury convicted Thomas of committing a first degree sex act and endangering a child. He was acquitted of first degree sex abuse. Thomas was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

In December 2009, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court held that the admission of the girl’s statement to police was improper bolstering of her testimony and should not have been allowed into evidence.

Thomas went on trial a second time in 2011. Kelonda’s testimony from the first trial was read to the jury because she was unavailable for medical reasons. The girl also testified as she did in the first trial.

At the second trial, the prosecution presented some of Thomas’s grand jury testimony in evidence. In light of that, the judge allowed the defense to introduce Thomas’s statement to the grand jury that he had told the investigating detective that he was innocent and would take a polygraph and DNA tests to prove it – evidence that had been excluded from the first trial.

On March 11, 2011, after five days of deliberation, the jury acquitted Thomas and he was released.

Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 11/22/2013

 

State:New York
County:Suffolk
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:Child Abuse
Reported Crime Date:2006
Convicted:2007
Exonerated:2011
Sentence:17 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age:22
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No