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Gonzales’ attorneys ask for new trial in child murder case

CHAMBERLAIN -- Attorneys for a woman convicted of killing a 4-year-old boy have filed motions for a new trial and for modification of sentence.

Donika Gonzales, 23, was convicted by a jury in April of first-degree manslaughter and aggravated assault for the death of her boyfriend’s son, Mason Naser. Earlier this month, Judge Bruce Anderson sentenced Gonzales to 130 years in prison for manslaughter and 15 years for the assault conviction, which will run concurrently, or at the same time.

Now, Gonzales’ attorneys are asking the court to reduce her sentence or asking for a new trial.

The defense is arguing that the 130-year sentence was disproportionate to similar cases. The attorneys contend Gonzales is a good candidate for rehabilitation and release at an earlier date.

According to the motion for a modification of sentence, the defense says Gonzales will not be eligible for parole until she is 86 years old. The defense also says Gonzales does not have a problem with alcohol, was brought up in a normal, loving environment, was involved in extracurricular activities in high school and has a strong Christian faith. Despite using alcohol and marijuana in the past, she has never been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or addiction, the motion says. Additionally, an investigation showed she would be considered as low-risk if put on parole and has a low risk for recidivism, according to court documents.

As for a new trial, the defense is arguing that statements Gonzales gave to Division of Criminal Investigation Agent Guy DiBenedetto and Buffalo County Sheriff Wayne Willman, statements made by Mason Naser prior to his death, and acts of Gonzales presented to the jury should have all been suppressed, or kept secret from the jury.

The defense is also arguing expert testimony by Dr. Gautam Ray, Dr. Nancy Free and Dr. Kenneth Snell should not have been allowed, and that the release of a juror for speaking to a witness in the hallway was improper.

“The evidence was insufficient to justify the verdict as to any count, specifically in that the state relied substantially upon evidence which should have been suppressed,” reads the motion.

The defense is arguing the jury instructions led the jury to find Gonzales guilty on separate counts but the judge, at the time of sentencing, treated first-degree manslaughter and aggravated assault as if they arose from the same transaction.

Doug Papendick, attorney for Gonzales, said if motions to suppress and exclude these items from the jury trial had been granted before the trial, it would have been a more fair trial.

Assistant Attorney General Bob Mayer, who prosecuted the case, said he won't comment on the motions until the judge addresses them in court.