Jennifer Keller, the attorney who defended the teenage driver of
that car, 18-year-old driver Jason Rausch, signed on as the campaign
treasurer for Bridgman's opponent, Kelly MacEachern. Both Bridgman
and MacEachern are deputy district attorneys and residents of Newport
"I think it's pretty ugly that she's involved in [MacEachern's]
election," Bridgman said. "There is obvious bad blood there."
Rausch was ultimately sentenced to three years of probation,
rather than jail time, for the death of Bridgman's son.
At the time, Bridgman criticized the verdict as too lenient,
saying: "I don't think my family got a fair shake."
Messages were left with Keller at her Irvine office regarding this
story. While she did not return phone calls, a staffer there said she
was in London and was aware of the story.
Keller is a past president of the Orange County Bar Assn., which
handed Bridgman a "not recommended" rating in February after a
lengthy review of her track record. The association handed
MacEachern, who received similar scrutiny, a "qualified" rating.
This election season has brought other conflicts between the two
attorneys. Keller, along with attorney Michael Schroeder, filed a
lawsuit against Bridgman in August on MacEachern's behalf. The suit
challenged Bridgman's ballot statement as "false and misleading."
After Bridgman answered with a dueling suit against MacEachern's
statement, the candidates mutually agreed to drop their suits in an
Aug. 31 settlement.
On May 23, 1997, Bridgman's life was permanently changed. Driving
the Bridgman family's Chevy Blazer, Rausch crashed as he drove a
carload of nine other teens south on Irvine Avenue, after a night of
partying in Santa Ana Heights.
Donny Bridgman was killed in the wreck. Two other teens,
cheerleader Amanda Arthur and Daniel Townsend, suffered lasting brain
damage from their injuries. The case stirred emotions throughout the
Newport Beach community and sparked a bevy of a lawsuits.
The District Attorney's office charged Rausch, who police said was
driving 67 mph in a 35-mph zone, with manslaughter. During a
three-month trial that wrapped up at the end of February 1998,