Woman who stole from Hanover nonprofit for veterans, state spar over sentence

  • Danielle Goodwin, the former head of the defunct Project Vetcare, listens to the numerous charges she pleaded guilty to in Grafton Superior Court in North Haverhill, N.H. on Aug. 27, 2018. Attorney Alex Campbell stands with her. Goodwin, the co-founder of the Project Vetcare, pleaded guilty to theft from the nonprofit, which was based in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/18/2019 9:58:59 PM

NORTH HAVERHILL — The co-founder of a Hanover nonprofit for military veterans who admitted to stealing nearly $100,000 from the organization is seeking an early release from prison. But prosecutors claim Danielle Goodwin, 48, violated the terms of her plea deal and should spend more time in prison than originally stipulated in the agreement.

Goodwin is currently being held in the New Hampshire Correctional Facility for Women in Concord after she pleaded guilty to eight charges of theft by unauthorized taking in 2018. Prosecutors said she stole $99,500 from Project VetCare, the defunct nonprofit that she co-founded in 2012. The money was used to pay for gas, a cruise, home renovations, and a house for her son and daughter-in-law.

Under the plea deal, Goodwin was given 3½ to seven years in prison, with 18 months of the sentence suspended based on good behavior and cooperation with law enforcement. That agreement meant she could spend less than two years in prison, with a release as early as June 26.

But in a motion Goodwin filed without her attorney on Nov. 4, she requested to be let out earlier than that and put on administrative home confinement. In the motion, Goodwin cited good behavior in prison, saying she completed vocational education classes, bible study classes, wrote a book and is working on her PhD, all from prison.

“I look forward to returning to society as renewed person, with hope,” she wrote. The commissioner of Corrections approved Goodwin for a release under home confinement, according to a synopsis filed by the Department of Corrections on October 30.

Prosecutors with the Grafton County Attorney’s office called the idea of releasing Goodwin to home confinement, “wholly inappropriate as it diminishes the gravity and scope of the defendant’s egregious and destructive criminal conduct,” in a Nov. 6 objection to Goodwin’s motion.

Deputy State’s Attorney John Bell also filed a separate motion on Nov. 6 to impose the previously suspended 18-month sentence, saying that Goodwin violated the terms of her plea agreement. If his motion is accepted, Goodwin’s earliest release date could be in 2022.

Bell’s claim stems from an interview that investigators conducted with Goodwin in August 2018, just before she pleaded guilty. During the interview, they asked about her son, Alexander Donahue, and his wife Sarah Healy, and their alleged involvement in the theft. In the interview, Goodwin told police that she directed Healy to write two checks to herself from Project VetCare, totaling $12,000. The money was supposed to help Healy and Donahue buy a house, the motion said.

“Goodwin was unambiguous in her sworn interview that the $12,000 was money to which she was not entitled as compensation,” Bell wrote.

Prosecutors believe Goodwin was truthful in the August interview and planned to have her testify at Donahue and Healy’s trial in 2019.

But in an Oct. 21, 2018, phone call Goodwin made from prison, she was recorded saying, “Any mother worth half her weight would fall on her sword all day long” and “I’m now given the opportunity to try and pull both of them out of the hopper.”

Despite the recording, Goodwin took the stand at Donahue and Healy’s trial in May, and “gratuitously and materially departed,” from her interview with police, the motion said.

Bell wrote that Goodwin contradicted her previous statements several times during the trial, including her earlier claim that the $12,000 of Project VetCare money was not hers to give away. Instead, Goodwin testified that the organization owed, and still owes, her money, according to the motion.

“Her trial testimony was wholly inconsistent with her sworn interview,” Bell wrote.

The jury ended up hung on all but one count in the trial. They found Donahue not guilty of theft. Both Donahue and Healy face a new trial set to begin in December.

Project VetCare, which was co-founded by Vietnam veteran Robert Chambers, assisted veterans with a wide variety of needs, such as navigating the federal bureaucracy for medical and disability benefits and obtaining basic necessities such as housing and food.

In 2014 and 2015, the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation gave Project VetCare a total of $880,000, making the nonprofit one of the largest recipients of the foundation’s funding each of those years. The money was used in part to purchase a large house on Lebanon Street for $475,000.

A Grafton Superior Court judge has yet to rule on Goodwin and Bell’s motions.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com




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