Former MIT professor convicted in 2005 staged shooting

Erin Smith and David L. Harris

A judge ordered a former MIT professor to undergo a psychological evaluation, calling his behavior for staging his own shooting two years ago "nothing short of bizarre."

John J. Donovan Sr. was also handed a $500 fine, two years probation and 200 hours of community service in connection with the 2005 shooting in which he claimed his son, James, had hired hit men to try to kill him in a Cambridge parking lot. Judge Kenneth Fishman told Donovan to stay away from his son, James, and all of his other children and their spouses and kids.

Donovan could have gotten a year in jail, the judge said, but the strange shooting was his first offense. During the trial, Donovan’s attorneys sought to deflect the charges by accusing police of bungling the investigation.

In recent years, Donovan has been embroiled in legal disputes with his five children, including a civil court battle over his fortune and allegations against him of sexual abuse by one of his daughters.

At about 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2005, police found Donovan shot in the parking lot of his business, Cambridge Executive Enterprises, at 219 Vassar St. Donovan, who was shot in his side, was lying across the front seat of his white minivan, his feet dangling out from the open driver’s side door. The driver’s side window was shattered. Donovan allegedly told police that two men with Russian accents and wearing ski masks had shot him. Donovan and his lawyers claimed a large belt buckle he was wearing saved him from more life threatening injuries, but prosecutors said the multiple bullet holes raised suspicions that his wounds were self-inflicted.

Donovan, who was indicted on May 4, 2006, has waived his right to a trial by jury and Judge Kenneth Fishman is overseeing the proceedings.