Could John Donovan Sr.’s “trail of tears” been cut short sooner?
Here’s what the Essex District Attorney’s Office had to say last month following the conviction of former MIT business prof John Donovan Sr. on seven counts of forgery, uttering a false document, false statement in a mortgage process, obtaining a signature by false pretense, false statement under penalty of perjury, and attempt to commit larceny:
The forged documents would have absolved the defendant of a Superior Court judgment against him, released the defendant from a mortgage, [and] given the defendant land worth $5 million from his late son’s estate intended for a conservation group.
And here’s what an MIT spokesperson had to say about Donovan, who still had a bio page on the MIT website until at least last month boasting, among other things, his having “founded 28 companies, six of which are public companies including Cambridge Technology Partners, “co-founded two centers for research: a birth defects center at Tufts University and the MIT the Center for Information Systems Research, and “authored over 20 books and over 200 publications”:
We do not have any comment or information to share about former Sloan Prof. John Donovan Sr., who has not been employed by MIT for over two decades.
It’s an interesting comment from an institution that’s been noted in multiple scandals concerning Donovan. As Leigh Egan recently wrote for crimeonline.com, “Amidst all of the ongoing legal battles, Donovan Sr., who served as an MIT professor until 2009, used his affiliation with the prestigious school to help himself and his businesses. As recently as September 2020, Donovan Sr.’s personal website described him as a Tenured MIT Professor and highlighted his MIT email address at the top of his resume.” And, “Donovan Sr. used his MIT email address to conduct business for one of his companies.”
It’s remarkable what MIT affiliation will do for a person. Even if that person is John Donovan Sr., who in 2005 staged his own assasination attempt near his office in Cambridge and got caught. In an effort to frame one of his sons who he was fighting in court over multiple trust accounts, the businessman claimed he was attacked by Russian hitmen. He was sentenced to two years of probation after investigators—following a costly manhunt for the imagined perps—found that he blasted himself in the abdomen.
What’s perhaps even more remarkable than the cover MIT provided Donovan is how long their relationship lasted. Back in 2002, the professor’s daughter revealed that her father sexually abused her as a child, writing in an affidavit the following year, “The sexual abuse by my father has caused me tremendous pain, psychological trauma, and anguish, which continues to this day.” Donovan, who denied the allegations, reportedly continued teaching at MIT for several years during that legal ordeal, including after the whole shooting affair.
It’s been a nonstop misery campaign for daddy dearest ever since, for family members and business affiliates alike. In 2017, a state appeals court sided with a woman who had been screwed by one of his companies. As crimeonline.com noted, “this lawsuit eventually led to Donovan Sr.’s [most recent] criminal trial, and it was revealed that Donovan Sr. used SendItLater employees to create many of the fraudulent documents Donovan Sr. used in his scheme to steal from his late son’s estate.”
For his latest performance, the 80-year-old Donovan will serve two years in prison. Salem News reporter Julie Manganis, who provided excellent coverage of the trial, noted that Salem Superior Court Judge Salim Tabit, upon handing down the sentence, said, “Mr. Donovan believes that the rules do not apply to him. … [he] undoubtedly contributed much to society, but for 20 years he has left a trail of tears everywhere he has been. It is my sincere hope that trail ends today.”
Had Donovan been branded a criminal and a burden by the powerful institution he used in his sales pitches, that trail may have been a lot shorter.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.