Updated 10/23/2011 09:00 PM
Campaign contribution draws scrutiny to Nestande case
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Former legislative aide Gabriel Nestande attended her first pre-trial hearing Friday morning
for a charge the victim’s family feel is too light.
Courtney Griffin, 30, was killed in May when she was struck by a car which police say was being driven by Nestande, who then drove off. Despite police initially saying they believed alcohol played a role in the crash, Nestande faces a single charge of Failure to Stop and Render Aid.
Public records show the law firm of Nestande’s attorney, Perry Minton, made a $5,000 contribution to the campaign of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. The filing date was June 28.
“It creates a question in my mind and certainly other people’s, ‘What the heck is going on here?’,” Bart Griffin, Courtney’s father, said.
In a statement to YNN, Lehmberg said "During the course of both of my campaigns, I have received campaign funds from a variety of people, including criminal and civil attorneys, citizens and other community leaders. Those contributions are hopefully made because they believe I am a good and fair DA.”
Lehmberg’s campaign finance report for the first half of this year show it is true that her contributors are diverse, but more than $17,000 of the $26,785 accepted came from criminal defense attorneys. Minton’s law firm was among the top three donors.
It’s a fact that has Bart Griffin curious.
“How it’s impacted this case thus far? I don’t know. The fact is you may not know it until long after it’s over with,” he said.
Minton did not speak to reporters at Friday's hearing, but he told YNN later that if Nestande had committed a more serious crime, the grand jury would have indicted her accordingly.
He also said prosecutors have revealed little about their investigation, so he couldn’t speak to what lead to the Failure to Stop and Render Aid indictment.
As for the campaign contribution, he told YNN that he sympathizes with the Griffin family, but said his law office contributes to various politicians running for office and strongly believes the practice has never influenced any cases handled by his office.
Attorneys regularly contribute to the campaigns of judges and district attorneys. The Texas Ethics Commission limits the amount of money a judge can receive from a donor, but has no rules for a district attorney.