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Son of MIT professor says his father tried to ruin him

Deepens feud over family trust funds

Former MIT professor John J. Donovan Sr. is charged with filing a false police report in connection with a shooting prosecutors say was staged to frame the defendant's son. Former MIT professor John J. Donovan Sr. is charged with filing a false police report in connection with a shooting prosecutors say was staged to frame the defendant's son. (FILE PHOTO)

The son of a millionaire business guru accused of staging his own shooting during a family dispute testified yesterday that his father had threatened to ruin him.

John J. Donovan Sr., a former MIT professor, is on trial on charges he faked a shooting in 2005 to gain the upper hand in a battle over family trust funds that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Prosecutors said he then falsely accused his oldest son, James, of hiring would-be killers.

The elder Donovan is charged with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum one-year sentence.

James Donovan testified yesterday that his father called him a demon, and said he should be careful because he had young children and a lot to lose. The father warned: "I will ruin you," James Donovan said.

The younger Donovan also told the court that because of the dispute, he moved his family from his house in Hamilton, less than a mile from his father's second home, to another state.

John Donovan, 65, denies any role in his shooting and insists he was attacked by two strangers on Dec. 16, 2005.

But prosecutors say Donovan made up the story to get revenge. Donovan was wounded in the abdomen and said he was saved from more serious injury by a large belt buckle. But the emergency room doctor who treated him said he did not see the type of injuries he would expect if the belt were on when the shots were fired.

Donovan, a business professor at MIT from 1969 to 1997, made a name for himself as a technology guru. He commanded big fees as a sought-after speaker to Fortune 500 companies, started more than a dozen companies, and published 11 books. He has been involved in legal battles over trusts with James Donovan, his oldest child, and his four other children since 2003.

In 2002, one of Donovan's daughters told her siblings that Donovan had sexually abused her when she was a child. Donovan denies the allegation and has said the accusation is a strategy to gain leverage in the dispute.

Donovan obtained a restraining order against his son James in 2003 after he told police he found a broken window in his bedroom, but the order was later withdrawn. He has filed several lawsuits against his son, one of which alleges the younger Donovan laundered $180 million through unlawful trading of restricted stock in his position as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs & Co. in Boston.

James Donovan testified yesterday that the company launched an internal investigation of the claim and found no wrongdoing.

During the emergency call Donovan made from his cellphone after the shooting, he told a State Police dispatcher that his son laundered $180 million and had threatened to kill him.

James Donovan's wife, Christina, testified that on the night of the shooting, her husband came home from work, kissed their three children goodnight, ate dinner, and checked e-mail before police arrived to search their home.

The elder Donovan was also a clinical professor of pediatrics at Tufts University for 10 years, where he did research using statistical analysis to track birth defects.

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