[UPDATED with Dead Woman's Family Reacts to No Jail Time:] Gabrielle Jane Nestande Guilty of Criminally Negligent Homicide
See Update No. 3 at the bottom of page 2 on the deceased woman's family reacting to no jail time being given.
Update No. 1 on the next page about Gabby being found guilty of criminally negligent homicide, and Update No. 2 on page 2 on the sentence including probation, a fine but no jail time.
ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 13, 12:55 P.M.: As is to be expected when the prosecution gets to go first, the DUI death trial in Texas of Gabrielle Jane Nestande is not going well for the Orange County political scion. After an opening statement in Austin Tuesday morning that had prosecutors vowing to prove the 25-year-old legislative aide got drunk, plowed her BMW into a pedestrian who would die, and kept on driving on an early May 2011 morning, bar tabs introduced today showed she had ordered two vodkas and seven beers only hours before.
After the collision that took the life of 30-year-old Courtney Griffin, the defense and prosecution agree, the daughter of former OC supervisor, assemblyman and GOP chairman Bruce Nestande of Newport Bech drove to the home of a friend.
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Her former roommate, John Ball, said from the stand he was so sickened by Gabby's recounting of the incident he reported it to police, reports The Digital Texan.
Bell was followed to the stand by Austin Police Officer Evonne McGuire, who responded to the call to find the Beemer with a broken windshield with purple cloth and human flesh sticking out from it, Digital Texan reports. The cop reportedly said the flesh, which was in plain sight, resembled raw meat.
But that horrific detail would also roll into what the defense claimed in its opening: that Ms. Nestande thought she had hit a deer.
UPDATE NO. 1, FEB. 21, 1:41 P.M.: After long hours of deliberations that included the judge advising them a mistrial could be called, jurors in Austin, Texas, have found Gabrielle Nestande guilty of criminally negligent homicide. But the jury found her not guilty of failing to stop and render aid to Courtney Griffin, who died after Nestande drove her BMW into the nanny.
The failure-to-stop-and-render-aid count, coupled with charges of manslaughter and intoxication manslaughter, could have sent 25-year-old Nestande to a Texas prison for up to 50 years. Criminally negligent homicide can produce sentences in the Lone Star State ranging from 180 days to two years behind bars.
UPDATE NO. 2, FEB. 22, 3:02 P.M.: After closing statements and four hours of deliberations, the jury in Austin, Texas, decided on a sentence of 10 years' probation and a $10,000 fine but--against the recommendation of prosecutors--no jail or prison time for Gabrielle Nestande.
Texas law allows for such a ruling if the defendant has no criminal record, like Nestande. That's what her attorney, Perry Minton, called for in his closing, saying he was offended the prosecution brought up her Newport Beach pedigree.
During her closing statement, Assistant District Attorney Mary Farrington eluded to this when she said of a probation stipulation that allows for a $50 donation to Crimestoppers, "She spends that much on dry cleaning."
Farrington told the jury Nestande, though eligible for probation, should be locked up for taking a life.
Assistant District Attorney Allison Wetzel took another shot at the Nestande family, saying it has a history of avoiding consequences for its actions, according to a YNN News item. Wetzel mentioned credit-card records from Nestande in the days before and after the accident, including $38.95 spent at New World Liquor on May 30, 2011, days after the accident.
Gabby's father, Bruce Nestande, a GOP insider and former Orange County supervisor and assemblyman who worked for Governor Ronald Reagan, took the stand during testimony for the punishment phase to explain he made the purchase on a credit card they both share. (Newport Beach residents take note; he got house arrest for a 2006 hit-and-run crash into a parked car caused by his driving the wrong way on a one-way street while drunk. This is not to be confused with his earlier DUI conviction for a hit-and-run in San Bernardino County.)
Bruce Nestande also told the Texas jurors his family will live with Gabby's accident forever, but, he conceded, it will be worse for the family of the deceased Courtney Griffin. He also talked of his 25-year-old daughter's volunteer work, campaigning for Texas Governor Rick Perry and legislative assistance in the Lone Star State capitol.
Let's go to the video:
Asked by prosecutors if Gabby or her sister Francesca have drinking problems, Bruce Nestande answered, "Absolutely not. . . . The two girls, I don't believe, drank until they were 21. And I'm the kind of father that would sit up and watch TV and wait, so they would have to walk by me to go to bed."
He also said he urged Gabby at trial to "be yourself, tell the truth. I know Gabrielle and her credibility as far as I'm concerned."
On that point, Wetzel produced an interesting display for jurors, as KVUE, the Austin ABC station, reported. She showed an image on the big screen of Nestande crying on the stand earlier in the trial while editorializing, "Those tears are for herself." Next was a picture of Gabby as the verdict was read.
There was a slight smile on her face.
UPDATE NO. 3, FEB. 25, 12:50 P.M.: As you might expect, the family of the late Courtney Griffin is not reacting favorably to her killer, former Newport Beach debutante Gabby Nestande, getting off with probation and a fine.
Asked what message the sentence sent to the Austin-area community, Courtney's mother, Laurie Griffin, said outside the courtroom, "Everybody just go out tonight, drink, get behind the wheel, drive through neighborhoods and hit innocent people." She described her daughter as "a completely innocent person that did nothing but love her family and her community," reports the Austin Statesman. The mother had previously called for 15 to 20 years in prison.
According to the report, one of the prosecutors, Allison Wetzel, said she and her colleagues were disappointed with the sentence, but said of the jury, "This was a difficult case, and we respect their decision. They worked very hard and considered everything we presented to them." Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo released a statement saying he, too, was disappointed but figured the jury's decision was based on "a history of permissiveness in our community as it relates to holding criminal suspects accountable for their actions."
Sure doesn't sound like Orange County, eh?
By the way, those Texas jurors were mostly successful in avoiding the media afterward; when asked how they reached the decision on no jail time, one juror suggested the reporter direct the question at the district attorney.
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