The whole process was very victim-friendly. We were treated in a very supportive manner. We had a personal guard to stay with us the entire time, got to meet the warden, and were provided with water and Kleenex during the hearing. Everyone was extremely nice.
Lauren's speech was amazing, (especially considering the VERY rough draft she showed me 12 hours earlier). When they asked if I had a statement to make, I had not prepared one, believing only Lauren would be permitted to speak, but I came up with something on the fly and didn't babble too much. Afterwards, they reclassified ME as a victim too.
The support I got from friends (this means YOU!) who wrote letters to the parole commission letting them know that releasing Donnie would put other children at risk were very effective. Surprisingly, of the 30+ letters in their files, there wasn't a single one from my mom, dad, or sister, or from Lauren's dad, his mom, or his brother. I was glad I had the Websleuths people to fall back on. I guess this is when you find out who your friends are.
The Parole Commission actually told us that the letters they got weighed heavily in their decision, especially as the letter-writers included victims of similar crimes, law enforcement officers, and mental health professionals. Our taking time to appear at the hearing was also beneficial as it enabled them to put faces to our names, making us "real people" and not just characters in a story.
Donnie put on his best "sincere remorse" face, but tried to minimize the abuse saying it "only happened 20-25 times". The parole board (two men) glared at him and one of them told him that even ONE time was too many. At one point he started a sentence with "It's funny..." and he was interrupted by one of the men who informed him that there was NOTHING "funny" about any of this. I was really impressed by them.
He tried to insist we got married in 1999, but I had the marriage license and divorce decree that backed me up. We also learned that he had interviewed several lawyers upon being arrested, and his FIRST attorney wanted him to plead guilty, to spare Lauren having to testify. He'd already arranged a plea bargain, which, if taken, would have resulted in a shorter sentence, in a county jail, and he would probably be out already. He claims now that he is sorry he didn't take this deal, as Lauren was revictimized on the stand by the lawyers he eventually retained.
Ultimately, he went with Douchebag and Sleazeball, Attorneys at Law who advised him to plead "Not Guilty". They assured him that even if he WAS convicted, he would get better quality mental health assistance in a state prison. He claims he is now being medicated for "manic depression" which I assume is supported by the prison records, although I believe that particular disorder has been referred to as "bipolar" for years; long before he was incarcerated, which made me skeptical as to his claims, and the credentials of his psychiatrist, specifically with regard to concerns his knowledge may be out-of-date.
We learned that Mr. Brunstetter has been confined to his cell 3 times for (minor) rules infractions (15-20 days each time) and that he also "failed" one of his seminars because of this confinement preventing him from attending the final session.
When asked whether he had been taking advantage of the educational opportunities available to convicts, he claimed that the prison had run into trouble locating his High School diploma when he applied to take college level courses, but said it was "eventually located". I was able to explain to the panel that he had actually graduated from the high school at the mental hospital he was in at the time, but that his mom, being on the Anne Arundel County school board at the time, managed to get his diploma to say "Chesapeake High School" since the other "reflected poorly on him." So the reasons his diploma could not be located in a timely manner were his fault for trying to "play the system."
He apologized to Lauren, admitted everything (which will make it harder for him to ever claim that his "confession letter" was written under duress), and she felt relieved to hear his voice crack when he talked about recognizing the damage he'd done to her psychologically. He talked about what a pure and good person Lauren had been, and how horrible he felt to realize he had "destroyed a beautiful little soul" leaving her with trust issues and self-loathing.
I am not sure he realized that she had turned to self-injury to cope until yesterday, when many of the scars were visible (as she wore short sleeves). She believes he is remorseful for his crimes. I think he just regrets being caught and imprisoned. But if she feels satisfied, who am I to rain on her parade?
He brought up the current unemployment rates, and the Jerry Sandusky trial, probably to make it appear he was "in touch" with the "outside world." I was surprised he brought up Sandusky, but he said it had made him think about the impact of molestation upon child victims.
He told them about all the wonderful things we had done as a "family" (probably to make it seem like we were "normal" much of the time) and was informed that MANY abusive homes appear to be respectable middle-class families to the outside world. He made it VERY clear that (unlike his opinion of Dottie Sandusky) I had NO reason to have EVER suspected anything was going on. This made me feel better, as my own family has vilified me for years over this, claiming I should have known, and at times, even claiming that THEY knew (though they can not explain why the never told me or her Dad, or anyone in authority).
I went into this thinking Donnie could "win" or "lose" but that we weren't in a position to "win" or "lose" anything, just to do what we could to keep him from winning. Somehow, afterward, it really FELT as if we had won. We worked hard for this, and it paid off. We bared our souls and secrets to the world and it paid off.
I knew we could prevail with the WS membership behind us, and am so glad that this case can be used to bring positive attention to WS, and to make it very clear that, despite rumors to the contrary by detractors, we have NO sympathy for child molesters.
He was asked about his plan should he be released, and stated that his mother has Alzheimers, his brother and sister live far away, but that a local couple has offered to let him stay with them upon release. The wife attended the hearing, and the parole board had a private conversation with her before she departed. He mentioned that he is good at sales, specifically floor coverings, but I suspect there would be issues with him visiting people's homes to measure rooms once he is a RCSO, so this is an untenable plan.
His current job detail is "custodian," a position he would never have taken in the real world, even to support his children, believing it was beneath him, always preferring to take advantage of others to support him and feed his addictions. I honestly think he will have difficulty finding any work upon release (he himself cited the current unemployment rates), so it may be better that he is accustomed to unpleasant, physical work, since it may be his only option.
I was somewhat concerned when he indicated that, upon release, he would like to volunteer to work with the elderly, or some animal-related cause. This disturbed me, as I feel he will have exposure to vulnerable individuals who would be helpless against him, if his intentions are less than honorable. Fortunately, we have three more years to figure out how to protect these groups from him.
HUGE THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO TOOK THE TIME TO WRITE A LETTER OR EMAIL, OR EVEN JUST SEND US POSITIVE ENERGY. SPECIAL THANKS TO KIMSTER AND TRICIA FOR MAKING CAPER A VIABLE REALITY. WITH LUCK, WE CAN KEEP OTHER PEDOPHILES FROM BEING RELEASED EARLY AS WELL.
My posts are strictly MY opinion under circumstances when many points of view need to be considered. I apologize in advance to anyone whose potential involvement is contemplated in error, or who may be offended because I do not see eye to eye with them on all matters related to this case. I hope our differences can be set aside as we unite in the search for this child. Your opinions and insights are just as valuable as mine.
Make a difference. Read my story in the CAPER - Citizens Against Pedophile's Early Release Forum