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Driver gets probation for traffic death

Feb. 24, 2013 at 9:48 PM   |   Comments

AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A Texas jury recommended 10 years of probation for a former state legislative aide who struck and killed a woman with her car then drove away.

Gabrielle Nestande, 25, was spared the sentence of up to 10 years in prison that she could have received for criminally negligent homicide in the May 2011 death of Courtney Griffin, 30, of Austin, the Austin American-Statesman reported Friday.

The judge could add conditions when Nestande, who has a job lined up in Austin, is formally sentenced March 25, the American-Statesman said.

Laurie Griffin, Griffin's mother, said the message of the sentence is, "Everybody just go out tonight, drink, get behind the wheel, drive through neighborhoods and hit innocent people." The newspaper said she thought a prison sentence of 15 to 30 years would have been more appropriate.

After 21 hours of deliberation over three days, the jury Thursday found Nestande guilty of criminally negligent homicide. Nestande was found not guilty of failure to stop and render aid, intoxication manslaughter and manslaughter, all of which carry more severe possible sentences.

Bruce Nestande, a former California lawmaker, testified his daughter had not used alcohol since the accident, but a prosecutor noted she had a credit card charge at an Austin liquor store mere days after Griffin was killed.

"This is a family that has a long history of denial that there's a problem, of rescuing and making excuses," prosecutor Allison Wetzel said.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement he was disappointed by the jury's verdict, based on "a history of permissiveness in our community as it relates to holding criminal suspects accountable for their actions."

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