PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The lawyer for the North Philadelphia teenager accused of raping and murdering a young woman last summer in Northern Liberties indicates that his client may be withdrawing his plan to plead guilty.
Eighteen-year-old defendant Donte Johnson was expected to plead guilty to this summer’s rape and murder of 20-year-old Sabina Rose O’Donnell (see previous story). Instead, his new attorney, Douglas Dolfman, requested a postponement.
Dolfman says Johnson’s family was devastated by the news that he would spend his remaining life in prison.
“It’s difficult for a mother to have an 18-year-old kid throw his life away simply by a plea, without putting up a fighting chance,” Dolfman said on Friday.
“They just were not happy with the attorney that was representing him,” Dolfman told KYW Newsradio, “so now that I’m on the case I’m going to do what I can for them, look into it, and if we have to go to trial, we’re going to go to trial on them.”
Richard Sacks is the attorney representing Sabina O’Donnell’s family.
“If he wants his trial that he is absolutely positively entitled to,” Sacks said after hearing of the postponement, “we’re prepared for that as well.”
Still, said Sacks, the victim’s family continues to suffer:
“It’s devastating every morning, afternoon, and evening for the family of Sabina and it always will be.”
A status hearing has been scheduled for January 5th to determine whether Johnson will enter a plea or go to trial.
Reported by Hadas Kuznits, KYW Newsradio 1060.