Amy Senser guilty on two felony countsby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — A Hennepin County jury has found Amy Senser guilty of two of three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide in her hit-and-run trial.
Jurors found her guilty of leaving the scene of the accident, and of failure to notify authorities in a timely manner. They found her not guilty of gross negligence, but guilty of a lesser charge of careless driving.
The jury delivered the verdict Thursday afternoon, after deliberating over the past three days.
Senser, wife of former Minnesota Viking player Joe Senser, admitted to driving the car that hit Anousane Phanthavong, 38, in August 2011, but she said she didn't know at the time she had hit a person.
Senser, 45, of Edina, showed little emotion as the verdicts were read. She stared straight ahead. Jurors looked tense at the conclusion of the highly publicized trial, with one crying and dabbing at tears with a handkerchief.
Senser's lawyer, Eric Nelson, said he's disappointed with the verdict, and plans to appeal. Senser was to remain free until sentencing, which Nelson said is a relief to her.
Each felony count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but sentencing guidelines suggested four years. The misdemeanor carried a potential sentence of up to 90 days in jail.
Nelson said Senser is prepared for the possibility of a prison sentence, but pointed out that the court could decide not to send her to prison.
A niece of Phanthavong's, Souksa Banh Phanthavong, thanked the jury. She called her uncle "a good person. There could've been a lot to him."
"We are very satisfied that justice has been done," said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in a news conference after the court session.
Senser's trial began on April 23 and she took the stand in her own defense on Monday.
On the evening of the crash, Senser testified she had planned to join her teen daughters and two of their friends at a Katy Perry concert at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, but said she decided to leave at 10:45 p.m. because she did not feel well. On the way home to Edina, Senser said she felt better and decided to return to St. Paul to pick up the four girls.
As she exited I-94 on the Riverside Avenue exit, Senser said she was looking to her left, away from the side of the ramp where Phanthavong was putting gas in his Honda Accord. The Accord's hazard lights were on.
The collision with Phathanvong occurred just after 11 p.m.
Senser described "being jolted" by the impact and assumed she had hit a pothole or piece of construction equipment.
According to mobile phone records, Senser called one of her daughters at 11:08 p.m. But Senser said she was not using her phone at the time she struck Phanthavong.
"I just never saw him," Senser said, and broke down sobbing.
A Minnesota State Patrol accident reconstruction expert testified that about 40 percent of Phanthavong's body would have been visible over the hood of Senser's SUV. Phanthavong flew 40 to 50 feet from the impact. A driver safety expert called by the defense argued that it would have been difficult to see Phanthavong in the dark.
Joe Senser testified he became concerned after seeing a television news report of the fatal crash and noticed damage to the SUV.
On the day after the accident, the Sensers retained a lawyer, who turned the SUV over to the State Patrol.
Phanthavong's family members have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Sensers seeking more than $50,000 in damages.
Joe Senser played four years with the Vikings in the early 1980s before a knee injury ended his career. He co-owns Joe Senser's Restaurant and Sports Theater, a Minneapolis-St. Paul-area restaurant chain, and has worked as a Vikings radio color commentator.
(Associated Press writer Steve Karnowski contributed to this report)
- All Things Considered, 05/03/2012, 4:50 p.m.