A Texas woman arrested by the FBI and charged for allegedly funneling more than $10,000 in illegal contributions to Congressman Michael Grimm’s 2010 campaign was arraigned in federal court this afternoon.
Diana Durand, a close friend of Mr. Grimm–a lawyer for Ms. Durand wouldn’t confirm they had a romantic relationship, though media reports have described her as an ex-girlfriend–appeared briefly in a downtown Brooklyn courtroom, where she did not enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
After the appearance, her attorney, Stuart Kaplan, told reporters that Ms. Durand, who has not been formally indicted, was not the “smoking gun” in any potential case against Mr. Grimm.
“There’s not anything she had that would be beneficial to the government,” said Mr. Kaplan, who said he believes the government is “satisfied she’s not the smoking gun.”
Mr. Kaplan said Ms. Durand has a “long, lasting friendship” with the Staten Island congressman, but painted a portrait of her as a friend who was ignorant of campaign finance laws. If she didn’t have any ties to Mr. Grimm, Mr. Kaplan said, the case would likely have been referred to the Federal Election Commission.
Ms. Durand’s arrest, however, suggests the reportedly two-year-old federal investigation into Mr. Grimm’s fund-raising is continuing. A federal complaint charged Ms. Durand with using straw donors to mask more than $10,000 in over-the-limit contributions, but Ms. Durand’s attorney said that she was “victimized by her own ignorance.”
Offering what appeared to be a defense of Mr. Grimm’s role in the case, Mr. Kaplan also said the Republican lawmaker was a “stickler” who scrutinized his contributions. He said Ms. Durand has not been in contact with Mr. Grimm since the arrest and said no evidence existed that the congressman had directed Ms. Durand to perform any of the “behavior” she was charged with.
Mr. Grimm’s attorney, William McGinley of Patton Boggs LLP, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Previously, Mr. McGinley has pushed back against the federal prosecutors, telling The New York Times: “We are saddened that the government took the extraordinary step of arresting a single mother on these allegations, and hope the matter will be resolved quickly.”
Today, Ms. Durand’s attorneys asked for a delay in the case so information could be “properly reviewed” before Ms. Durand determined how to plead. The next court date will be bumped back to April.