The Ballad of Donovan Drayton

He spent five years in jail awaiting trial. Call it justice, Queens-style.

Media coverage focused on the day care angle, missing the fact that the shooting happened at a drug house. The murder of Dwight Bent rated a quick report on the TV news, a few grafs in the tabs, and that was it.

The police took Bent's murder more seriously. There were children on the scene, after all, and it took place in broad daylight near a school.

Wright claimed one of the robbers fired first. He told police that when a light-skinned male pulled a gun on Bent, he ran upstairs and got his gun "as an act of self-defense."

Donovan Drayton spent five years in jail without even receiving bail.
By Caleb Ferguson
Donovan Drayton spent five years in jail without even receiving bail.
Brooklyn attorney Michael Warren succeeded in getting Donovan Drayton released on bail.
By Caleb Ferguson
Brooklyn attorney Michael Warren succeeded in getting Donovan Drayton released on bail.

"I think this happened out of jealousy because people know that I sell marijuana," he said.

Wright also neglected to tell detectives that Glover and White had robbed him at the same house just 10 months before, on Super Bowl Sunday.

By the long day's end, police would charge him with criminal use of a firearm, criminal possession of a machine gun, and reckless endangerment. But Wright would continue to shade his statements to detectives.

The police now had Glover's name. But when they pinpointed his location, Glover escaped through a rear window.

Meanwhile, Drayton's name also came to the attention of investigators. He was arrested in the early morning of October 12. At first he denied any knowledge of the Bent murder.

When his father found out about the arrest, he drove immediately to the 113th Precinct and demanded to see his son. The detectives at first gave him a hard time, and finally allowed the men a few minutes to talk. By the time their conversation was over, Donovan said he would cooperate.

"I just told him, 'This is one of those moments where you have to make a choice about where you want to be in your life,'" Ronny says.

Without a lawyer present, Donovan told police that Glover had searched Bent and found a gun, tossing it to Drayton.

"As soon as I caught the gun, the guy that was in the house started shooting from the top window. Me being so scared, I ran and let a shot off in the air and kept running, then I heard some more shots go off.

"[White] dropped me off at my crib and that was the last I saw of them both. I had no knowledge of what was going on until it happened. If I knew I never would have been there."

The following day, Wright picked Drayton out of a lineup. Drayton was sent to Rikers.

Glover, meanwhile, would be a fugitive for six more days. On October 18, Nassau County police officer Lisa Cardinale, looking for suspects in two West Hempstead burglaries earlier that day, spotted Glover and his girlfriend carrying several bags. Cardinale arrested them and found stolen jewelry, video game equipment, and a loaded handgun in their hotel room.

Glover promptly blamed her for the burglaries. And when the interrogation turned to the Dwight Bent homicide, he gave a statement blaming Drayton for the crime.

He claimed that Drayton planned the robbery of the 110th Avenue drug house, and that Drayton brought the guns. After Wright fired his "warning shot," it was Drayton who opened up on Bent.

"It was Donovan's idea," Glover told detectives. "The only reason I played along was because I don't have a source of income."

When police found White the next day, he, too, implicated Drayton, claiming the three men plotted the robbery the night before, and that Drayton supplied the guns.

The Bent case fell to prosecutor Shawn Clark, a tall, officious 16-year veteran of the Queens District Attorney's office. He soon discovered that Drayton wouldn't play a willing fall guy.

Surprisingly—and perhaps evidence of his credibility—Drayton decided to waive immunity and testify during his grand jury hearing. He hewed verbatim to his initial statement to police, reiterating that he had no prior knowledge of what happened on 110th Avenue four months before.

"I've never been in this position in my life," he said. "I am not a stick-up kid [or] robber. I was going to school, working. I just got an internship. I was frozen. I didn't know what to do."

Why didn't you call the police when you got home? Clark asked.

"I did not want to put my family in jeopardy or danger. Those guys know where I live at. I only have one father. I don't want anybody to shoot my father. I did not want to die because, listen, where I come from, sir, if you only knew."

What he didn't know at the time was that Clark had already made deals with both Wright and White in exchange for lighter sentences. By default, Drayton—the guy who cooperated first and waived immunity before the grand jury—had become suspect No. 1.

In the subsequent months, prosecutors tried to pressure Drayton into pleading guilty. So did Judge Robert Hanophy. Clark offered 18 years. Hanophy, who has since retired, told Drayton if he did not take the deal, he would get 28 to life.

But in court, Ronny Drayton told his son he didn't trust prosecutors. Donovan turned down the plea deal.

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6 comments
nate.mims
nate.mims

If it were in my family, I would certainly want the people who shot and killed my relative locked up.  But I wouldn't want everyone they are assosicated with to be in jail too. 

Then again, there are members of my family that I think would deserve to be killed, particularly those who decided to sell drugs out of a day care center.  I would have pushed to have them kicked out of my family which would have left them open for an attack like this.  We don't believe in drug transactions around children and have very stiff penalties for that in my family.

nate.mims
nate.mims

DJ Nitti -

I understand how it can be unquestionable that he should have gone to the police right away, however when you consider that the actual shooters in the case were members of a gang, which had other members who weren't there, he would in essence have been signing his death sentence.  It's easy to say he should have done this or that, however unless you are in a situation like that, it's hard to know what's best to do.  Plus, if he had gone to the police, and they didn't arrest White or Glover right away, those two know that by silencing him then they get to walk.  All things considered, it's a really tough spot to be in and I for one, would not have gone to the police right away either. 

DJ NITTI
DJ NITTI

I get what you're saying and that's probably why most people dont hang out with gangbangers in the first place. I mean it's a cute story and all, the innocent good boy just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time with some bad boys and doesnt know what was happening, but we all know better than that. I grew up in the hood and I knew that if I hung out gangbangers the chances of getting into trouble were exponentially greater than if I hung out with the neighborhood basketball players. Bottom line is that he was part of a group that shot and killed a man. If the victim was your family member you'd probably want them all prosecuted. He got off lucky and I hope he can make the most of it and stays out if trouble in the future but he's extremely lucky cause as far as I'm concerned he's an accessory to murder.

roundelay78
roundelay78

@DJ NITTI  

Extremely lucky how?  Being dumb enough to hang out with some guys he barely knew shouldn't have gotten him locked up that long in the first place, especially when the real murderer lied about Drayton to save his own behind. He wasn't the killer, so he shouldn't have been locked up in the first place,because it wasn't his fault.  And he wasn't a gang member, so he was hardly "part" of their group, as you put it.  Plus he admitted to not even knowing all that mess was going to go down. Yeah, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but losing five years of his life in jail for a crime he didn't coit? Not a doggone thing "lucky" about that.

DJ NITTI
DJ NITTI

I'm usually pretty liberal on these issues but it's really hard to be sympathetic towards someone that was with a group of guys that killed someone and didn't immediately go to the police to report it. I get that he was scared for his safety but that's no excuse. If the purpose of the story is to highlight how long these cases take to go through the legal system, I agree that's wrong and should be addressed but if I were on that jury I'm not sure I would let him off with just a gun charge. At the end if the day someone is dead and not only did this guy admit to having a gun but also shooting it during the assault and didn't come forward until he was facing serious jail time. With that being said I do think the DAs abuse their power by giving what they know are guilty parties extremely lenient sentences in exchange for cooperation to find less culpable defendants guilty and that is not only wrong but dangerous, especially when they allow dangerous individuals to get out of jail to commit more crimes. Overall the five years Donovan did seem justified if not lenient for his involvement in a murder.

DJ NITTI
DJ NITTI

I'm usually pretty liberal on these issues but it's really hard to be sympathetic towards someone that was with a group of guys that killed someone and didn't immediately go to the police to report it. I get that he was scared for his safety but that's no excuse. If the purpose of the story is to highlight how long these cases take to go through the legal system, I agree that's wrong and should be addressed but if I were on that jury I'm not sure I would let him off with just a gun charge. At the end if the day someone is dead and not only did this guy admit to having a gun but also shooting it during the assault and didn't come forward until he was facing serious jail time. With that being said I do think the DAs abuse their power by giving what they know are guilty parties extremely lenient sentences in exchange for cooperation to find less culpable defendants guilty and that is not only wrong but dangerous, especially when they allow dangerous individuals to get out of jail to commit more crimes. Overall the five years Donovan did seem justified if not lenient for his involvement in a murder.

 
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