Donna Moonda told the shooter she was mentally
and physically abused by
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
AKRON — A federal judge complied with an agreement that gave the man who shot Mercer County, Pa., urologist Dr. Gulam Moonda a 171⁄2 year prison sentence.
U.S. District Court Judge David Dowd sentenced 26-year-old Damian Bradford on Wednesday for the May 13, 2005, shooting on the side of the Ohio Turnpike.
Bradford, a small-time drug dealer from Beaver County, Pa., cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against Dr. Moonda’s widow, Donna, the mastermind of the plot.
Donna Moonda was found guilty last week of murder for hire and aiding and abetting the doctor’s death. A penalty phase begins Monday — and she will either receive the death penalty or life in prison.
Prosecutors at Bradford’s sentencing Wednesday said without Bradford’s help they likely would not have been able to prosecute Donna Moonda.
“The investigation had not produced a scientific link, a gun or a black van described by Donna Moonda,” said Nancy Kelley, assistant United States attorney.
Finding the evidence
Donna Moonda told authorities that her husband was killed by a highway robber that stood just 5 foot, 4 inches tall and was driving a black minivan. She told police that the killer could not have been Bradford, her lover.
Kelley said their main piece of evidence was cellular telephone records showing Bradford at a service plaza along the Ohio Turnpike about half an hour from where Dr. Moonda was shot.
“If the [Bradford] trial was lost, we knew Donna Moonda would never be prosecuted,” Kelley said.
Kelley said the offer of 171⁄2 years was based on what Bradford could have received if he had been prosecuted locally in Cuyahoga County. Comparing Bradford’s sentence with what Donna Moonda is facing, Kelley said much thought was put into the offer.
“We do not condone the taking of Dr. Gulam Moonda’s life. He is a murderer,” she said of Bradford.
Bradford had been arrested last year and was set to go to trial when the deal was made.
A family’s loss
Prosecutor Linda Barr read a statement offered by Dr. Moonda’s closest living relative, Dr. Faroq Moonda of Poland.
“The day Damian killed my uncle, he took away the most influential person in my life,” Faroq Moonda wrote. “My whole family in India mourned with disbelief. They speak of Damian and Donna with a hatred so deep that words can not even begin to explain the magnitude of their loss.”
In the end they hold Donna Moonda more accountable.
“The biggest tragedy is that the man who helped so many was deceived by the woman he helped the most,” the letter continued.
Bradford’s attorney, Michael DeRiso of Pittsburgh, said his client has expressed nothing but remorse for Dr. Moonda’s death. “Damian has told me, ‘He never did anything to me. What I did was wrong,’” DeRiso told the judge.
Because of Bradford’s testimony at Donna Moonda’s trial, prosecutors recommended the lighter sentence. Without that recommendation, Bradford would have faced 30 years to life in prison based on his past criminal record.
In court Wednesday, Bradford apologized to the Moonda family for his actions.
“I want his family to know, in my heart, I’m sorry,” he said.
His attorney said Bradford, who grew up in poverty, was seduced by the money Donna Moonda lavished on him when they met in a drug rehabilitation program in 2004. Bradford testified at trial she bought him clothing, jewelry, cars and paid rent and bills on an apartment for him. She had promised to share her millions inherited from Dr. Moonda with Bradford.
Bradford only decided to testify against his lover when she indicated she would plead the Fifth Amendment if called to testify at his trial last year.
“I was betrayed. I believed that person was going to be there for me as my star witness,” Bradford said of Donna Moonda. “Regardless of whether I got away with it or not, I couldn’t live with this feeling in my gut.”
DeRiso and an investigator who worked on Bradford’s behalf said after the hearing that their client was manipulated by Donna Moonda — who claimed mental and physical abuse by her husband.
“She would call Damian whispering, claiming she had been locked in the basement and showed him a cigar burn,” investigator Jim Smith said.
It’s unclear if Donna Moonda’s defense team will introduce that type of information to jurors next week during her sentencing phase. A court document filed Wednesday by prosecutors, however, indicated they opposed Moonda’s intention to call a witness who would describe the conditions Moonda will face in federal prison. Prosecutors also asked the judge to prohibit Donna Moonda’s family from expressing their love for her during their testimony.
DeRiso asked the judge if he could recommend that Bradford spend his sentence in a prison near West Virginia where Bradford’s family resides. The judge said he would include the information, but the federal bureau of prisons does not take judge’s recommendations.
Bradford is being held at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Hubbard.