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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
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Donastorg Star Witness Arrested For Assault Outside Courthouse

Just after court adjourned for the day Tuesday, the alleged victim and reluctant star witness in Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg’s domestic violence trial was arrested for assaulting a person outside V.I. Superior Court on St. Thomas.
Few details were confirmed at the time of this story’s posting. VIPD Public Information Officer Melody Rames verified Keturah Ernest, age 19, was arrested at 5:59 p.m. outside V.I. Superior Court and charged with assault and disturbing the peace.
Rames could not immediately verify if Ernest was held overnight or released. Rames was also unable to offer details about the victim, but there have been unconfirmed reports the victim was also involved with the case.
The arrest further complicates an already confused and complex case that hinges on how to interpret Ernest’s self-contradictory testimony.
On the basis of Ernest’s signed statement to police, Donastorg, 48, was arrested in March on charges of aggravated assault, third-degree assault under domestic violence laws, brandishing a deadly weapon and using a dangerous weapon in the commission of a crime of violence.
But after Ernest dictated and signed each page of that statement, and after Donastorg was arrested on the basis of that statement, Ernest recanted the portions alleging assault, threats and brandishing a weapon, claiming she was manipulated into signing.
Through her attorney, Judith Bourne, she released a public statement outlining her new version of events.
In her original statement, Ernest said she had recently had an abortion, possibly of Donastorg’s child, and that she had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Tuesday in court, Ernest testified she had neither an abortion nor an STD—questions that could be clarified later in the trial through Ernest’s medical records.
Much of the testimony Tuesday, the second day of trial, revolved around competing theories for why Ernest changed her testimony. Defense Attorney Gordon Rhea argued and Ernest testified she was manipulated into signing a false statement after friends saw her crying at the V.I. Bureau of Motor Vehicles and she told them about the incident with Donastorg.
"Before I signed my statement, we were worried about catching my flight. That is why I signed it without reading it," Ernest said.
A moment later, Ernest asserted that she was in a hurry because the officer who took her statement, V.I. Police Sgt. Deborah Jack, had to pick up her son at baseball practice.
Jack testified Tuesday there was no time constraint or hurry when Jack went over the document with Ernest and that Jack was in no rush due to baseball practice.
"She had to rush to catch a flight, didn’t she?" Rhea asked.
"No sir," Jack said.
"And you showed her the document just before the flight, didn’t you?" Rhea followed up.
"No sir, that is not accurate," Jack said.
The prosecution then brought domestic violence expert Karla Digirolamo to the stand to offer another explanation for Ernest’s change of heart. During her testimony, Digirolamo noted that she had written several books on domestic violence and had testified in 40 to 45 domestic violence trials.
"It is my experience, and evidence supports it," Digirolamo said, "that victims tend to deny and minimize in part because they love these people and they don’t want to believe what happened to them."
Government attorney Claude Walker then asked Digirolamo if it was common for a domestic violence victim to refuse to testify at trial.
"Yes, it is very common," she said, recounting that New York recently made arrests mandatory in domestic violence cases and since then, there has been a sharp increase in domestic violence victims recanting or refusing to testify.
"Many go back and pull the charges, saying the story was not true," she said.
Judge Adam Christian wound up the day’s proceedings shortly after Digirolamo’s testimony. Ernest’s alleged assault occurred minutes later just outside the courthouse.
The Donastorg trial resumes Wednesday at 9 a.m.

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Just after court adjourned for the day Tuesday, the alleged victim and reluctant star witness in Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg's domestic violence trial was arrested for assaulting a person outside V.I. Superior Court on St. Thomas.
Few details were confirmed at the time of this story's posting. VIPD Public Information Officer Melody Rames verified Keturah Ernest, age 19, was arrested at 5:59 p.m. outside V.I. Superior Court and charged with assault and disturbing the peace.
Rames could not immediately verify if Ernest was held overnight or released. Rames was also unable to offer details about the victim, but there have been unconfirmed reports the victim was also involved with the case.
The arrest further complicates an already confused and complex case that hinges on how to interpret Ernest's self-contradictory testimony.
On the basis of Ernest's signed statement to police, Donastorg, 48, was arrested in March on charges of aggravated assault, third-degree assault under domestic violence laws, brandishing a deadly weapon and using a dangerous weapon in the commission of a crime of violence.
But after Ernest dictated and signed each page of that statement, and after Donastorg was arrested on the basis of that statement, Ernest recanted the portions alleging assault, threats and brandishing a weapon, claiming she was manipulated into signing.
Through her attorney, Judith Bourne, she released a public statement outlining her new version of events.
In her original statement, Ernest said she had recently had an abortion, possibly of Donastorg's child, and that she had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Tuesday in court, Ernest testified she had neither an abortion nor an STD—questions that could be clarified later in the trial through Ernest's medical records.
Much of the testimony Tuesday, the second day of trial, revolved around competing theories for why Ernest changed her testimony. Defense Attorney Gordon Rhea argued and Ernest testified she was manipulated into signing a false statement after friends saw her crying at the V.I. Bureau of Motor Vehicles and she told them about the incident with Donastorg.
"Before I signed my statement, we were worried about catching my flight. That is why I signed it without reading it," Ernest said.
A moment later, Ernest asserted that she was in a hurry because the officer who took her statement, V.I. Police Sgt. Deborah Jack, had to pick up her son at baseball practice.
Jack testified Tuesday there was no time constraint or hurry when Jack went over the document with Ernest and that Jack was in no rush due to baseball practice.
"She had to rush to catch a flight, didn't she?" Rhea asked.
"No sir," Jack said.
"And you showed her the document just before the flight, didn't you?" Rhea followed up.
"No sir, that is not accurate," Jack said.
The prosecution then brought domestic violence expert Karla Digirolamo to the stand to offer another explanation for Ernest's change of heart. During her testimony, Digirolamo noted that she had written several books on domestic violence and had testified in 40 to 45 domestic violence trials.
"It is my experience, and evidence supports it," Digirolamo said, "that victims tend to deny and minimize in part because they love these people and they don't want to believe what happened to them."
Government attorney Claude Walker then asked Digirolamo if it was common for a domestic violence victim to refuse to testify at trial.
"Yes, it is very common," she said, recounting that New York recently made arrests mandatory in domestic violence cases and since then, there has been a sharp increase in domestic violence victims recanting or refusing to testify.
"Many go back and pull the charges, saying the story was not true," she said.
Judge Adam Christian wound up the day's proceedings shortly after Digirolamo's testimony. Ernest's alleged assault occurred minutes later just outside the courthouse.
The Donastorg trial resumes Wednesday at 9 a.m.