Queens Man Going Free After Five Years as a Pretrial Detainee

Email a Friend

Donovan Drayton is free. Sort of.

A judge Wednesday sentenced Drayton to five years behind bars—almost exactly the amount of time he spent on Rikers Island as a pretrial detainee—plus five years of supervised release. That’s effectively a sentence of time served, according to his attorney Michael Warren.

But because of the way the system works, Drayton was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. He will be sent to a state facility for processing before being released in a couple days, Warren said after the sentencing.

So Drayton, 25, will likely spend two more days behind bars before he can begin to move past the case that’s consumed the last six years of his life.

Drayton was 19 when he was arrested Oct. 12, 2007 and accused of murder in a drug robbery that went bad. Due to the severity of the charges, a judge refused to grant bail. So he spent almost four years on Rikers Island before his first trial in 2011, when a jury acquitted him of murder, manslaughter and possessing the murder weapon. But that jury was hung on other charges, so he went back to jail pending a second trial. He spent another year and a half behind bars until his father managed to hire Warren, a top defense attorney.

Warren and his wife Evelyn, also an attorney, went to the appellate court last fall alleging that Drayton’s lengthy pretrial incarceration was unconstitutional. A four judge panel agreed and bail was set at $125,000. He got out of jail on Oct. 24, 2012.

Drayton went to trial for a second time in July. The jury acquitted him of all the remaining charges except for one count of weapon possession.

That count is a felony and could have carried a maximum sentence of 15 years. But Drayton had a clean record before the arrest and Justice James Griffin said he was impressed by the community that rallied around Drayton. Dozens of supporters— including many middle-aged artists and performers—showed up at every court hearing to support Drayton.

But the judge also said there was "more than enough evidence for you to be convicted of every crime alleged in this indictment."

He added that the prosecutor was saddled with untrustworthy witnesses. Griffin said the jury gave Drayton the benefit of the doubt as did his community of supporters.

“Don’t betray the trust that these people have placed in you,” Griffin said.

A spokesman for the District Attorney's Office said prosecutors agreed with the judge's statement regarding the strength of the evidence.