Amy Senser sentenced to 41 months in fatal hit-and-run

9:58 PM, Jul 9, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - The wife of former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser was sentenced to 41 months in prison Monday in a hit-and-run crash that killed a Thai restaurant chef last August.

Amy Senser's attorneys had sought probation, but Hennepin County District Court Judge Daniel Mabley said he didn't believe Senser had taken responsibility for the crash.

A jury convicted Amy Senser in May of two felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the death of 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong. She also was convicted of a misdemeanor.

Following a number of victim impact statements made by family members and friends of the victim, Senser finally stood and tearfully addressed the court and Phanthavong's family.

"I've waited a long time to tell you I'm sorry. I hope you can believe me that I never saw your son that night," Senser told the victim's family. "If I had I would have stopped to help."

"I take full responsibility for his death and that it was my fault," Senser continued. "It's been very difficult not to be able to talk with you. I can't imagine one of my children being taken from me. I can only imagine how much you must miss him."

"I just hope someday you can forgive me for taking Anousone from you"

A tattoo with Phanthavong's name was visable on Senser's wrist.

After sentencing Amy Senser apologized and hugged the mother of Anousone Phanthavong, who accepted her embrace. She was then taken into custody to begin serving her sentence immediately at the Women's Correctional Facility in Shakopee. With good behavior she could be out in just under 28 months.

State guidelines called for a sentence of 41 to 57 months in prison on the felonies.

The victim's brother Kono spoke with reporters immediately following the verdict. "I feel that Amy Senser's remorse was real today.  I mean it was very emotional for both sides, and it was hard to see her go through that pain too."

"My brother was a pretty peaceful guy, for sure he would have forgiven her," Kono added.

During victim impact statements Phanthavong's friend Anna Feizer told the court "We ask that she acknowledge the actions taken directly by her caused Anousone's death." Rose Ellingson, another friend of Phanthavong, told Senser "doing good deeds in life shouldn't free you from facing the consequences of your actions."

Senser's attorney had described her generous nature and history of community service in asking for a light sentence.

Prosecutors last week asked that Senser be sentenced to nearly five years in prison, arguing that she has made excuses. Senser's defense attorney asked for leniency in the form of probation, citing Senser's lack of a criminal record, support from family and friends and community involvement.

Senser attorney Eric Nelson had earlier requested either an acquittal or a new trial, arguing that her conviction was based on flawed jury instructions. Those requests were quickly shot down by Hennepin County District Judge Daniel Mabely.

Senser struck Phanthavong last August on a highway exit ramp near the restaurant where he worked. He was filling his vehicle with gas when the fatal incident occured.

Jurors convicted Senser on two felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide; the first for not stopping at the scene of the crash that killed Anosone Phanthavong and second for not reporting it in the quickest means possible.

Those verdicts were rendered despite the fact that But early Thursday morning KARE 11 learned that jury did something else; they handed the judge a note before announcing their verdict that read:

"Can this be read in the court room in front of Ms. Senser? We believe, she believed she hit a car or a vehicle and not a person."

Hamline University law Professor Joe Daly said those 28 words in his mind should change Amy Senser's fate.

"I would reverse it if I was an appellate judge based on this note," Daly said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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