Former gay porn star
seeks new trial in
attempted murder case
by Dan Aiello
Former gay porn star Marc Anthony Donais, known to his fans as Ryan Idol, will file a motion for a new trial in Sacramento Superior Court Friday, September 21, claiming his Sacramento attorney was incompetent.
Donais, 46, was found guilty last September of attempted murder of his estranged girlfriend following an argument that turned violent in 2009 when he went to her Sacramento home to confront her over the couple's recent breakup. He is currently in jail awaiting sentencing.
Donais and his girlfriend, whom the Bay Area Reporter is not naming because she was the victim of domestic violence, had known each other for nearly 20 years after meeting in Hawaii. The woman had ended the relationship when she learned of Donais's work in gay adult porn. The two returned to dating in 2008.
In what Donais's new attorney, Los Angeles-based Robert Bernstein, describes as "a classic he said, she said" case, a Sacramento jury believed the ex-girlfriend despite several admissions that she lied.
"She lied so many times – she admitted in fact that she lied – that the judge at one point advised [her] of California's perjury laws and recommended to her that she retain legal counsel," Bernstein told the B.A.R.
Bernstein, who Donais was referred to following his conviction, believes that the evidence proves that Donais was not guilty but that his former attorney failed "on several issues," to present evidence or produce experts to counter the prosecution's witnesses.
"As one example, she claimed that she had been hit 60 times in the face, but she only had one 4-inch cut. The prosecution called a medical expert to say that was consistent with her story. The defense failed to bring in their own medical expert to say that 60 punches to the face would have produced more than a small cut," said Bernstein.
The Sacramento jury was also told of Donais's gay porn star notoriety, "which had no bearing on the case," Bernstein told the B.A.R. "His counsel made a huge deal out of the fact my client had been a gay porn star. Even during jury selection. What does his former career have to do with this case? Nothing. But his attorney made a big deal out of it throughout the trial."
Asked if homophobia could have been a factor either within the Sacramento District Attorney's office or among jurors in contributing to the guilty verdict, Bernstein told the B.A.R., "Do I have evidence of that? No. But is it possible? Of course it's possible."
Bernstein explained the limitations in seeking a new trial.
"We either have to have new evidence, which there is no new evidence, or we have to motion for a new trial based on the ineffectiveness of counsel. There are many instances where I believe Mr. Donais's attorney failed to argue, present, represent, or counter the prosecution where he should have."
According to the former girlfriend's testimony, Donais, after hitting her 60 times, used the top cover of a porcelain toilet to hit her in the head. She claimed she then kicked Donais and knocked him down into the bathtub before leaving the house.
According to Bernstein, at the time of the incident Donais's former girlfriend declined medical aid, but eventually sought treatment at a hospital "8 to 10 hours later." Donais, however, was taken to the emergency room of a local hospital immediately following the incident where shards of porcelain were removed from his arm, according to Bernstein and reported by the Sacramento Bee.
At the time of his conviction Donais had been long removed from the porn industry, where his gay fans were infatuated with his boy-next-door, all-American good looks. Donais completed his final video in 1996. Despite the fact that Donais made eight films, he is still remembered as one of the gay adult film industry's biggest stars.
Following his porn career, Donais went on to pursue a career as an actor, appearing in several plays. However, at the time of the incident Donais was living in Sacramento studying to become a chef at the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute.
The district attorney's office declined to comment on the new motion.
"This is still an active/pending case so we are not going to comment on anything that has not already been made public or has already been presented in court," DA spokeswoman Shelly Orio told the B.A.R.
In a declaration filed with the court in response to Donais's motion for a new trial, his former defense attorney, Johnny Griffin III, indicated that the decisions he made during the first trial were done for tactical and strategic reasons. He also said in the court document that Donais's allegations of ineffective counsel were false.
Donais declined a jailhouse interview for this story. In a press release issued by his friend, Leo Uy, Donais said he hopes to put "this whole unfortunate incident behind me and get on with my life."
"I've made some big mistakes and let myself and others down" he said in the statement.
Donais's hearing will be held at the Sacramento County Courthouse, 720 9th Street, at 9 a.m.