Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) is being accused of using his official position to help his girlfriend’s adult son get out of jail after being busted for possession of heroin, in a complaint to the House Ethics Committee that could complicate his reelection chances.
In the complaint, first reported by the New York Post Saturday, Donovan allegedly used his stature as a congressman and former district attorney in Staten Island to help Timothy O’Connell, his longtime girlfriend’s adult son, get out of jail after he was arrested on a charge of criminal possession and sale of heroin in December 2015.
“Donovan, while serving in Congress and as a former district attorney, visited the 122 precinct and used his position to illegally request that officers issue O’Connell and [the friend] a ‘desk appearance ticket’ instead of proceeding with normal arrest protocols,” the allegation reportedly says. “This intervention allowed the detained to be immediately released from custody, as well as the records to be sealed.”
Donovan’s office strongly dismissed the allegations, saying Donovan never visited the precinct, and argued that the protocols followed during this arrest were in line with the NYPD’s standard written procedures on desk appearances.
“Like many families, Dan has been dealing with a loved one’s opioid addiction — in private until now. These allegations are not only 100 percent false, but Dan has a long history of recusing himself from matters involving close friends and family,” Donovan spokesman Pat Ryan told TPM. “This is a disgusting, vicious, and false attack on a young man’s struggle with addiction to score political points two months before an election. The young man, a high school grad who was gainfully employed, was arrested for the first time and charged with a misdemeanor, just like thousands of other people before and after him. To publicize his struggle with absurd and false allegations is a despicable new low.”
Donovan has been dating Serena Stonick, O’Connell’s mother, since 2011, and the two have a child together. According to the Post, a desk appearance ticket is usually reserved for minor crimes and is highly unusual for heroin possession.
Donovan is facing a tough reelection fight in his GOP-leaning district, both in the primary and the general. Former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), hot off a prison stint of his own, is running against him in the primary, and has some legitimate local support. Democrats also see a possible opening this fall in a district that President Trump won by 10 points in 2016 but President Obama carried in 2008.
Donovan’s squeaky-clean reputation as a local DA is a big asset in this race, and could take a hit with the allegations, though it depends on what the Ethics Committee finds (and whether it reaches any conclusions before the June primary).