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Say A Prayer For Joe

Friday, January 07, 2011

Maryann didn’t cry.

But her voice trembled with a fear she said is almost unbearable as she struggled to guess the whereabouts of her fugitive husband.

Maryann said yesterday evening that she had listened to my show yesterday afternoon as I pleaded for Joseph P. Donahue - if he was listening - to turn himself in to federal marshals and make life, as hard as it is, easier on himself and his family.

No, she said, she had absolutely no idea where he might be. Joe, 56, didn’t tell her he was going to flee rather than report Tuesday to the Ft. Dix, New Jersey prison camp as federal court officials had ordered him to do. Joe kept his secret to himself to protect her, she said.

And now she worries that he might kill himself.

“I know how he’ll do it, too,” she said.

An expert scuba diver who spent countless hours underwater in tropical hot spots from the Florida Keys to the Caribbean, Joe would go out in soft, silent way that makes dying as easy as going to sleep after a night out on the town.

“Nitrogen narcosis,” Maryann said.

Known as “rapture of the deep,” the potentially deadly condition has accidently killed divers as they breathe compressed air and go below depths of 100 feet. The condition is incapacitating at 300 feet, causing stupor, blindness, unconsciousness and even death. Also known as the “martini effect,” divers experience euphoria comparable to that of one martini on an empty stomach for every 50 feet of depth beyond the initial 100 feet.

Joe loved to dive.

Now Maryann worries that he might want to die.

Facing 10 years in prison, Maryann said Joe cried and cried Monday morning as he told her over and over how sorry he was for what was happening to her and their grown children. But he told her to go to work and not drive him to the prison the next day. Joe said their two sons could drive him to the Scranton bus station that morning and he would head to New York City. In Manhattan he would meet with a new lawyer, an appeals specialist, who could advise him about how he might remain free on bail. An appeals court, however, had turned down his request to remain free on bail pending appeal.

Time had run out for Joe.

On Tuesday morning he would take the train to the Ft. Dix prison, Maryann said her husband told her. But when Joe and the boys reached the bus station, Joe got out of the car and told them to leave, saying that it was best this way and that he would be alright. They said their goodbyes and he disappeared in the rearview mirror.

Maryann said that was the last she and her children saw or heard from the man to whom she has spend her life since they were “childhood sweethearts” after getting together when they were 15. She’s been by his side ever since, including the tumultuous ride in the late 80s when Joe spent fourteen months of a two year sentence in a federal prison for his role in what government officials then said was the largest cocaine smuggling operation in the history of the United States.

Government officials convicted Joe of laundering money for mastermind Frederick “Rik” Luytjes, who received a two year sentence. Joe created a stir back then when he claimed that Luytjes told him that he had bribed a federal judge in Scranton and the prosecutor in the case with $2 million in cash in exchange for the light sentence.

That same prosecutor surfaced 22 years later to prosecute Joe on the new charges. Joe took the stand in Scranton last year and made the same claims of a vendetta against him because his accusations had kept the prosecutor from rising in the ranks and being appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Joe emailed and called me several times in the past few weeks. He told the same stories and swore that he was a government victim and not a career criminal who was guilty of 16 felonies that included what the judge said was “an elaborate scheme” that defrauded banks, credit card companies and people he trusted.

Joe said he was writing a book that would make a terrific movie. And he said he was convinced that he would not have to report for prison because his court-appointed lawyer would succeed in getting him a new trial.

After abruptly dropping off at WILK News Radio several travel pamphlets he published for vacation businesses he once ran in Key Largo, Florida and other written material for me to read, Joe emailed me that he wanted to pick up the material last Friday. I emailed him late Thursday that I would be off for New Years Eve and asked if some time this week would work.

My email bounced back as undeliverable.

And Joe was gone.

I told Maryann that if he contacted her or the kids that they should report the contact to the FBI and try their best to persuade him to turn himself in. Maryann promised she would and said the FBI had shown up at the school where she works and told her they worried that desperation might cause Joe to turn violent.

Maryann said that although prosecutors tried to turn her and him into “Bonnie and Clyde” 22 years ago, she had never committed a crime and he was essentially a good man who made some bad decisions.

Now Joe is on the run.

No, Maryann didn’t cry.

But when our conversation ended she did have one request.

“Say a prayer,” she said. “Please say a prayer for Joe.”

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Topics : Law_Crime
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Locations : CaribbeanFloridaNew JerseyNew York CityPennsylvania
People : BonnieClydeJoeJoseph P. Donahue

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