Former Chief Operating Officer of Wikimedia Foundation is convicted felon

Friday, December 14, 2007

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Carolyn Doran.

The Register, a British technology news and opinion website, reports that a former Wikimedia Foundation Chief Operating Officer (COO) has a criminal record in at least four U.S. states: Texas, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.

Carolyn Doran, born Carolyn Sue Bothwell, was the WMF COO for six months from January to July 2007. The Register reported Doran's criminal record includes four convictions for driving under the influence, two of check fraud and petty larceny, one hit and run with fatality, and one charge of unlawful wounding for shooting former boyfriend Philip L. Brown in the chest in 1990. He later asked that no charges be made against her and they resumed dating each other. Two of the arrests for driving under the influence occurred this year, once in May while she was working for the Foundation and once a month after she resigned.

"He asked me to marry him after I shot him," Doran told The Washington Post on February 22, 1990.

Wikinews has confirmed, through Pinellas County police reports, that she was convicted in four DUI's and also the hit and run. It is also confirmed, she faced an additional charge of driving while a license is suspended or revoked (DWLSR).

In 1994, Doran was implicated in the murder of a man who was the lover of her friend, Cassondra Sue Betancourt. Betancourt was later convicted of the man's first degree murder in 1995 after a jury trial. According to court documents, Betancourt, "brought some cocaine to a hotel room that had been rented by the victim, her lover. The next morning, after defendant left the room, the victim was discovered dead."

Doran, who had prior knowledge that Betancourt would deliver the drugs, made a plea deal with prosecutors that if she testified against Betancourt, she would get a lesser sentence for her previous charges of credit card fraud and petty larceny. Although Doran assisted the prosecution in attempting to gain incriminating evidence by wearing a wire while with Betancourt, Doran never received her lesser sentence.

Doran's booking photo after her third known DUI arrest, which occurred while she was on the WMF payroll.
Image: Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Despite the attempt, Betancourt's conviction was later overturned in 1998 because "there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction. The court held that there had only been circumstantial evidence linking defendant to the crime, and that proof by circumstantial evidence was not sufficient to prove first degree murder," added the court papers.

Wikinews can also confirm that Doran's husband, Sean H. Doran, a former intelligence officer and major for the U.S. Air Force, to whom she was married for only five days, drowned on their honeymoon on Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands in 1999. According to The Washington Post, the cause of the drowning which led to his death was not known. It was later acknowledged in private records given to the Library of Virginia that his death was deemed accidental.

Six months later she remarried after meeting a man named Christopher Dale Confer in Arapahoe County, Colorado. It was earlier thought she used Confer as an alias, because according to PACER, she filed for bankruptcy in 2001 where she is listed as having "aliases," one being Carolyn S. King and the other as Carolyn Confer.

The Register quotes Mike Godwin, the Wikimedia Foundation's general counsel, as saying that the Foundation had no knowledge of Doran's prior or current criminal record. "We've never had any documentation of any criminal record on Carolyn Doran's part at all. As far as I'm concerned, I have no direct knowledge of [her criminal record] yet...We have, in our records, no evidence of any such thing."

Wikinews attempted to contact Mr. Godwin via e-mail but no response has yet been received.

Doran was voted into her COO position by the Wikimedia Board of Trustees at the time. Of the seven board members, six supported her position and one did not. The vote was made and agreed upon on January 22, 2007. She was in charge of "all office/administrative issues" and "overall administration and business operations. Areas of responsibility included administration, personnel and fiscal management. In the future, [she will be in charge of] any new employee working in the administrative area," according to public e-mails on Wikimedia's main mailing list foundation-l.

According to Florence Devouard, the Chair of the WMF Board of Trustees, background checks were not performed on anyone until at least 2007, but that recently, the Foundation began to perform them. During that time, Brad Patrick was acting Executive Director and he did all the hiring.

"In fall 2006, we did not perform criminal background checks. From what I understood, Mike took care of this and this is now being done. It is fairly recent, the board did not get any report on this," said Devouard on foundation-l.

Doran was searched and questioned by U.S. Customs agents in Florida after returning from a Foundation board meeting in the Netherlands around June. According to The Register, it was because she violated the terms of her parole by attending the meeting. She was not arrested, but according to police reports, on October 31, 2007, Doran was arrested under a warrant valid for a "nationwide extradition". Doran was then extradited back to Virginia, where she is currently being held in a prison in Staunton.

Doran resigned from her position in July 2007, and the Foundation is currently without a Chief Operating Officer.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.