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Austin Personal Injury Attorney Adam Loewy on Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza's Weak-on-Crime Sentencing

The district attorney for Travis County, Jose Garza, recently negotiated a plea deal with Mindi Stafford, a former Austin CapMetro bus driver. The deal has faced criticism by many locals, including Austin personal injury attorney Adam Loewy, who represented the victim’s family in the related civil lawsuit.

Car accident lawyer in AustinIn January 2019, Stafford’s erratic and incoherent behavior while driving a bus at UT-Austin tragically resulted in the death of 39-year-old Anthony John Diaz. Diaz was riding his bike when she struck him. Witnesses reported Stafford acting oddly and talking to herself prior to fatally striking Diaz. They also report asking her to slow the bus down.

Footage from the incident showed that Stafford did not apply the brakes until after she hit Diaz. However, witnesses reported that all eleven passengers on the bus saw him before the crash. Diaz was dragged beneath the bus for over 100 feet and pronounced dead at the scene.

Stafford failed a sobriety test at the scene and was found to have four different prescription medications in her bag. The medications listed side effects that included dizziness, confusion, and drowsiness. The police immediately took Stafford into custody, and her case was scheduled for trial. After deliberation, the prosecutors assigned to the case ultimately accepted a plea deal with Stafford. However, the plea deal was heavily scrutinized by many, including the victim’s family and friends, who expressed outrage and a sense of injustice at what they saw as an insufficient sentence.

The plea deal included terms of:

  • A reduced charge of criminally negligent homicide
  • A sentence of no jail time
  • Deferred adjudication for seven years
  • Community service

This sentence is in contrast to the original charge of manslaughter, which carries up to twenty years in prison. 

While some have argued that this is too lenient of a sentence for such a severe offense, others have pointed out that it is in line with similar cases handled by Garza’s office. For example, in 2019, Garza agreed to give a 19-year-old who killed his passenger in a drunk driving accident just a 10-day sentence. It is likely that both the defendant in that case and Stafford would have faced much harsher punishments had they gone to trial and faced juries. 

The plea deal also drew criticism from the Austin Police Retired Officers Association, former Austin police officer Dennis Farris, and well-respected local attorney Adam Loewy. Loewy, a respected personal injury lawyer in the Austin area, called the plea a “clear message that you won’t get in serious trouble in Austin if you get behind the wheel while inebriated (Fox News).”

Loewy is concerned that justice might not be served for his clients in Travis County crash cases involving drunk drivers. He argued that the District Attorney’s office is too lenient in these cases and should be more aggressive in seeking sentences that reflect the gravity of the crime. He further stated that drivers who kill or injure someone while under the influence of alcohol or drugs should face more serious consequences for their actions.

Garza, an activist-turned-prosecutor with a platform focused on “reimagining” police procedures, won the election in January 2021 and has been lambasted by victims’ families for lenient sentencing policies. The policies have seen an accompanying spike in crime. Garza has no previous experience as a prosecutor and has faced accusations of going too easy on crime. 

Dennis Farris, president of the Austin Police Retired Officers Association and a police officer in Austin for 25 years, commented that he doesn’t know what’s going on at the district attorney’s office, and he agrees with Loewy. He warned that if prosecutors and the district attorney continue failing to hold criminals accountable for their actions, they’ll continue committing crimes.

Farris furthered this warning by mentioning that in Stafford’s case, a deferred adjudication basically constitutes a seven-year probation that would not appear on her record if she stays out of trouble in that time. Farris commented, “It literally is sending a message to the criminals in Travis County to go ahead and commit crimes, the DA is going to let you off, and you can go back to committing crimes (via Fox News).”

Attorney Adam Loewy represented the Diaz family in a civil lawsuit against the city. The lawsuit settled for an undisclosed amount. He noted, “Getting civil compensation money is important, but you’re just kind of conditioned to believe in this country that if somebody breaks the law, they’re going to serve jail time for it.” He went on to explain that Garza’s view on criminal justice differs from many, and it is upsetting to the families of the victims involved. 

About the Loewy Law Firm

At The Loewy Law Firm, we understand that a car accident can dramatically impact your life. We’re a leading Texas law firm specializing in representing people injured or killed in car crashes. Our team of experienced attorneys has been helping clients throughout Texas for more than 40 years.

We believe everyone has the right to pursue compensation and justice after a crash, and we fight hard to help our clients get the results they deserve. Our attorneys understand the financial and emotional impact of a severe car crash, and we work to ensure that our clients recover the maximum compensation for their losses.

At The Loewy Law Firm, our attorneys have a deep understanding of Texas traffic laws and regulations and can provide expert advice on how best to proceed with a claim. In addition, we have extensive experience in personal injury cases and know how to build strong cases for our clients.

Our attorneys will strive to protect your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve. If you were injured in a car crash, contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced Austin car accident lawyer.