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Donovan Cadogan

Other Wisconsin Exonerations
On February 7, 2011, police in Lacrosse, Wisconsin arrested 29-year-old Donovan Cadogan on charges of charges of possession and distribution of child pornography.

Cadogan, who had a prior conviction for exposing himself to an eight-year-old girl, was accused of downloading 13 child pornographic images in June and July 2010 while using a public computer at a Sir Speedy outlet in Lacrosse.

When police interviewed him, Cadogan admitted that he occasionally visited the Sir Speedy and used the computers there, but denied downloading any child pornography files. He said the last time he was there was in February 2010, at least four months earlier.

Cadogan went to trial in Lacrosse County Circuit Court in January 2013. Lacrosse Police Sgt. Mike Blokhuis testified that a forensic examination of the hard drives of the Sir Speedy computers showed that the pornography files had been downloaded to a Microsoft Skydrive (a personal cloud storage service) account that was linked to Cadogan’s Hotmail account.

The owner of the Sir Speedy franchise in Lacrosse, Kevin Fisk, testified that a dozen people used the computers regularly. He specifically recalled a white man using them to email and conduct Skype conversations. Fisk identified Cadogan in court as that person.

Another police officer, however, testified that when shown a photographic lineup prior to trial, Fisk selected a different man and at the time said he was 80 to 90 percent certain.

The other store employee, Nina Droegkamp, testified that she was familiar with Cadogan as well another man who used the computers longer than anyone else in the spring and summer of 2010. She said the man was in the store five to ten times and brought headphones, which she assumed were for Skype conversations.

Droegkamp was unable to identify anyone in a pre-trial photographic lineup. She said that person was white and about 6 feet tall. Asked if she saw anyone in the courtroom who matched the description, she said she could not say for sure.

Mari Stosich-Wall, a representative of Microsoft, testified that the images were detected in the Skydrive account on June 26, 2010. Microsoft immediately shut down Cadogan’s account and notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which then notified law enforcement in Lacrosse.

Stosich-Wall told the jury that the images were not emailed from the Skydrive account. She also testified that the only circumstance in which someone other than Cadogan could have downloaded the images was if that person had access to Cadogan’s password to get into the account.

On January 30, 2013, Cadogan was convicted of possession of child pornography and possession with intent to distribute child pornography. At his sentencing hearing, Cadogan declared, “I may have been convicted of this crime, but I did not in fact commit it.” He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In 2016, Cadogan’s new attorney, Cole Ruby, filed a post-conviction motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, as well as the failure of Cadogan’s trial defense attorney to retain a computer expert and to present evidence that pointed to another suspect.

The motion said that forensic computer experts, particularly Nicholas Schiavo, had extensively examined the hard drives of the Sir Speedy computers. They concluded that nothing on the hard drives placed Cadogan on the computers at Sir Speedy at the dates and times the unlawful files were downloaded. In addition, their examination suggested several possibilities as to how someone else got access to his Skydrive account.

Their examination showed that another man who more closely fit the physical description provided by store employees was using the computers within minutes of when the downloads occurred. That man was also conducting Skype conversations with a woman in Russia.

The motion said that Cadogan’s trial attorney had failed to present evidence that store employee Droegkamp had been asked by police if the frequent computer user was named “Don.” She said no, and that she believed the man’s name was similar to “Jordan.” In fact, the post-conviction defense investigation showed that the man using the computers at about the time of the download was named “Jared.” In addition, Droegkamp had described this man to police as 5 feet 10 inches tall, 170 to 180 pounds, with no facial hair, and wearing glasses. The man identified by the post-conviction investigation as “Jared” was 5 feet 10 inches tall, 180 pounds, and had dark hair. Cadogan, by comparison, was 6 feet 2 inches tall, 205 pounds, and had blonde hair and a goatee.

The motion also noted that seven of the pornographic images were last accessed on August 13, 2010—while Cadogan was in jail for a parole violation—suggesting that someone other than Cadogan was the true perpetrator. This was five months before the hard drives were turned over to police.

On June 29, 2017, Lacrosse County Circuit Court Judge Todd Bjerke granted the motion, vacated Cadogan’s convictions, and ordered a new trial.

“With the rapid advances of technology, retaining an expert when computers are involved, especially when such technical data is required, is an absolute must for an attorney to properly advocate for their client,” the judge ruled.

The failure of Cadogan’s trial attorney “to do so and not obtain the evidence regarding the alternative suspect and file access that came from the expert witness certainly prejudiced Cadogan,” the judge said. “While Schiavo’s testimony would have certainly shored up Cadogan’s theories, the time stamps and file access records provided cast a reasonable doubt as to whether Cadogan actually accessed and uploaded the files, especially with the discovery of the alternative suspect’s identity and how he matched the provided descriptions.”

On September 18, 2017, the prosecution dismissed the charges.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 9/24/2017
Most Serious Crime:Other Nonviolent Felony
Additional Convictions:Other Nonviolent Felony
Reported Crime Date:2010
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No