Amy Senser found guilty of criminal vehicular homicide

8:49 PM, May 3, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - A Hennepin County jury has found Amy Senser guilty on two of three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide.

Senser was found guilty on one count of criminal vehicular homicide-failure to stop, and a second count of criminal vehicular homicide-failure to notify police. She was found not guilty on criminal vehicular homicide-gross negligence.

She was also found guilty on a lesser count of careless driving.

Senser had no reaction as the verdicts were read. Her husband, former Minnesota Vikings tight end Joe Senser, hugged and kissed Amy after the reading.

The family of victim Anousone Phanthavong was seen hugging and seemed relieved at the verdicts as they exited the courtroom.

"On behalf of the family, I would say there is really no big upside to what we've seen today for anybody involved," Phanthavong family attorney Jim Ballentine said as he addressed the media following the verdict. "At the same time I think we've learned that the ground in front of the door to the Minnesota criminal justice system is level and, for obvious reasons, that has been a concern for my clients from day one. All that they've wanted is for justice to be served and they're thankful that was accomplished."

The verdicts came from the seven-man, five-woman jury Thursday afternoon after approximately 19 hours of deliberations.

One female juror was seen crying as she entered the courtroom before the verdict.

Senser was not taken into custody after the verdict was read. Sentencing is set for July 9.

Eric Nelson, defense attorney for Senser, called the decision fair but said they will appeal some of the decisions. "[We're] disappointed but we will move on," Nelson said after the verdict was read.

"We'll ask the court not to send her to prison," Nelson said. "That's a reality she has to face... I think she's prepared for that possibility but it certainly scares her."

"It's an emotional process for everyone involved. Not just Ms. Senser, not just for the P family, but these jurors, too." Nelson noted the jurors spent parts of three days deliberating in addition to the trial itself.

Senser was charged with three counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the death of 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong last August.

No one disputes that Amy Senser was behind the wheel of the Mercedes SUV that struck Phanthavong as he filled his vehicle with gas on the off ramp at I-94 and Riverside Avenue in Minneapolis. What jurors had to decide was whether Senser knew she hit the victim immediately or in the moments following the collision, or whether she truly believed that she hit a construction barrel as she testified.

The timing of the impact and what Amy Senser knew came to the forefront Tuesday evening when the jury asked Judge Daniel Mabley at what point would Senser have had to know she struck someone to be guilty of leaving the scene. After Mabley answered at the moment of impact or immediately afterwards, they resumed deliberations.

During closing arguments Tuesday prosecutors portrayed the Sensers as a family that turns a blind eye to things that are unpleasant or problematic. "This is a family where you don't ask questions and that way you don't know anything," Assistant County Attorney Deborah Russell told jurors. "Members of the jury, this is not Amy world. This is the real world. Find her guilty of all counts."

Russell also maintained that Amy Senser had been drinking before the crash, and engaged in behavior to cover up the crime.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson called the case one that was built on speculation and conjecture, and that prosecutors were motivated by the fact that Amy and Joe Senser are high-profile public figures.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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