Damian R. Bradford federal mug shot

Damian R. Bradford

With Damian R. Bradford’s trial approaching last summer, prosecutors had no scientific evidence linking him to the death of Dr. Gulam H. Moonda of Hermitage.

While the Ohio Highway Patrol had conducted the “most thorough investigation” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nancy L. Kelley and Linda H. Barr had ever seen, Ms. Kelley said her case was circumstantial, which makes it harder to convince a jury someone is guilty.

When Bradford, 26, of Beaver County, sent word that he wanted to plead guilty, prosecutors saw a plea bargain as a way to not only convict Bradford, but to secure “complete justice” by snaring the woman behind the murder, Dr. Moonda’s wife, Donna J. Moonda, who was convicted by a jury last week of murder for hire, interstate stalking and two counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence.

Mrs. Moonda’s sentencing hearing will start Monday. Her jury has the options of sentencing her to life in prison or death.

The various law enforcement agencies involved in the case were asked about a plea deal with Bradford, along with members of Dr. Moonda’s family and friends.

“All of them wanted the justice that Mr. Bradford would allow,” Ms. Kelley said.

Bradford pleaded guilty to the two charges against him, interstate stalking and using a firearm during a crime of violence, and agreed to cooperate with investigators, which included testifying at Mrs. Moonda’s trial.

Bradford admitted shooting Dr. Moonda on May 13, 2005, in an emergency pull-off along the Ohio Turnpike in Cuyahoga County.

On their end, prosecutors agreed to ask for the sentence that Bradford received Wednesday: 17 1/2 years in prison.

The sentence is far below what sentencing guidelines suggest: a minimum of 30 years.

But, Ms. Kelley said, if Bradford had been convicted on Ohio charges, he probably would have been imprisoned for only 18 years.

Prosecutors “appreciate” Bradford’s cooperation, but do not condone the murder he committed, Ms. Kelley said.

“Damian Bradford is plain and simple a murderer,” she said. “He must be punished for that.”

Bradford told U.S. District Court Judge David D. Dowd Jr. that he reached the same conclusion. He said he is sorry for killing Dr. Moonda and regrets agreeing to go along with Mrs. Moonda’s plan in return for a share of Dr. Moonda’s estate.

“He says things like, ‘This guy didn’t deserve to die,’ and ‘What I did was wrong,’ ’’ said defense attorney Michael J. DeRiso of Monroeville. “He never once tried to justify his actions.”

Bradford acknowledged that he agreed to plead guilty after Mrs. Moonda, one of his many lovers, refused to testify in his behalf. He called her refusal a “betrayal” and has testified that she had told him when planning the murder that she would testify for him.

“I thought that person was going to be there for me in time of need,” he said.

However, even if he had escaped conviction, he believed he had to be held accountable in some way.

“I don’t think I would be able to live with this thorn in my gut,” he said. “I must be punished for it.”

“He wanted the Moonda family to know the truth,” DeRiso said.

Referring to the Moonda family, Bradford said: “It’s hard to forgive and forget what’s been taken away. I am sorry.”

Before sentencing, a letter was read from Dr. Moonda’s nephew and adopted son, Dr. Faroq Moonda of Poland, Ohio. Faroq Moonda was unable to attend the sentencing hearing, prosecutors said.

Faroq Moonda recounted how his uncle had come from poverty in India to the U.S., which he viewed as a land of opportunity. Once Gulam Moonda became a successful urologist in the Shenango Valley, he sent money to his parents and siblings in India, affording them a way of life they would never have had otherwise.

His generosity extended to his patients and his community.

Gulam Moonda dedicated himself to “never turn down a person in need,” Faroq Moonda said.

Although Gulam Moonda had passed retirement age — he was 69 when he was killed — he did not think of retiring because of concern for his patients’ care.

“This was his hobby, his job, his passion,” Faroq Moonda said of Gulam Moonda’s urology practice.

Bradford was “lucky” to have a “generous plea bargain” and Moonda family members consider Mrs. Moonda “more accountable” for Gulam Moonda’s death, Faroq Moonda said, but hold “an anger so deep” for Bradford.

“We will never forgive him,” Faroq Moonda said, asking the judge to give Bradford the sentence of a murderer.

Dowd said prosecutors’ request for a downward departure from sentence guidelines was “well-taken” and said the nine-level drop put Bradford at a sentencing range of 168 to 210 months in prison.

Dowd sentenced Bradford to 180 months for interstate stalking and 30 months for the firearm charge, with the sentences being served one after the other.

After his release from prison, Bradford will be put on supervised release for 5 years.

Dowd also made Bradford, who made his living dealing cocaine and marijuana at the time of the murder, and met Mrs. Moonda in a drug rehabilitation program, eligible for a drug treatment program.

Bradford can earn up to 54 days a year of good time after he has served a year in prison. In unofficial calculations, it appears Bradford can reduce two years from his sentence by serving 14è years trouble-free.

Bradford can knock off another year by successfully completing the drug treatment program.

“I know he will come out a better man,” DeRiso said.

Bradford has been held at the Community Corrections of America private prison in Youngstown and will be transferred to a federal prison. He will receive credit for the time served since his arrest in late March 2006 on federal

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