Diana Durand, a former fundraiser for Grimm, pleaded not guilty in
New York to charges of funneling more than $10,000 to two candidates
for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 with the help of straw
donors, in violation of a federal law that capped individual
contributions to political candidates at $4,800.
The three-count indictment handed down last month does not name
Grimm, though Durand's lawyer, Stuart Kaplan, confirmed after
Monday's hearing at federal court in Brooklyn that Grimm was one of
the candidates in question.
Grimm, elected with a wave of conservative "Tea Party Republicans"
in November 2010, faces his own legal challenges. He was indicted in
the same courthouse last week on fraud charges in connection with a
Manhattan fast-food restaurant he partly owned.
Prosecutors said Durand reimbursed straw donors after they
contributed $4,800 to the campaigns at her request. She had
previously made the maximum contribution to Grimm in her own name,
according to the complaint.
Prosecutors did not comment on the identity of either candidate.
Kaplan said he did not know who the second candidate was.
The complaint filed against Durand included an excerpt from an April
2010 e-mail in which prosecutors said she thanked two straw donors,
who use someone else's money to make campaign contributions in their
"I was hoping for my birthday you will just let me forget about
paying you back," Durand wrote, before typing a happy face emoticon.
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Durand told the judge she understood the charges, but spoke little.
Kaplan told reporters he expected the case to go to trial and that
prosecutors would have to prove that Durand was "willful and
knowing" of the illegality of any of her actions.
"My client is not a sophisticated woman," Kaplan said.
Durand and Grimm also had "a very close" and "mutual" relationship,
Kaplan said, though he declined to say if it was romantic.
Grimm, a former U.S. Marine who subsequently worked as an FBI agent,
has vowed to "fight tooth and nail" against the fraud charges he
(Reporting by Bernard Vaughan; editing by G Crosse and Scott Malone)
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