Good Question: Do Prominent People Get Perks In Court?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The wife of a former Minnesota Vikings player and current restaurant owner runs into a man and kills him in a car accident, leaves the scene, yet she’s not in jail. The sister of the victim, Anousone Phanthavong, suspects special treatment.

“Rich people can get away and poor people, I say, they would be sitting in a jail hall right now,” said Vilayphone Phanthavong.

Amy Senser’s attorney, Eric Nelson, disagrees, of course.

“Whether you are Amy Senser, Joe Senser or ‘Joe-six pack,’ it’s the same way for everybody,” said Nelson.

So, do prominent people get special treatment?

“My experience is that it’s the opposite. The police will act as quick or quicker with a prominent person because they don’t want to be accused of any disparity,” said criminal defense attorney Joe Friedberg.

Friedberg has represented some big names, including former Minnesota Viking Randy Moss in his assault case.

“I just don’t believe that celebrities get any particular break. It’s all you can do to beat this, ‘We ain’t giving you a great deal because you got a big-time lawyer or big-time defendant,'” said Friedberg.

As for the Senser case and Minnesota’s hit and run law, you have to stop only if you know that you hurt someone. It has to be “immediately demonstrable” that someone is hurt.

On night of the crash, it was dark and construction cones were everywhere. Plus, just because Amy Senser says she was the driver, doesn’t mean that she was the driver, so the State Patrol may not have probable cause to make an arrest.

“Most people in Hennepin County who commit this crime and do not have any kind of prior record, don’t go to prison,” said Friedberg.

Rich and famous people do have access to money, which allows them access to the top legal representation.

“Well, it might buy you a better lawyer. It might,” said Friedberg, who added, “there are a lot of very expensive lawyers that are not good lawyers.”

He said the real issue with the perception of special treatment comes from Hollywood. It’s hard to not wonder when people are sentenced to 60 days in jail, but end up spending 20 hours.

“I have no idea how that system works,” laughed Friedberg, saying that California appears to handle high-profile people very differently from the rest of the country.

The jails and prisons are severely overcrowded in Los Angeles County, so when celebrities get released so quickly as standard procedure, it reeks of special treatment.

In Minnesota recently, two high-profile defendants, Denny Hecker and Tom Petter, both had top-notch attorneys and both men were sent to prison.

“They didn’t get any deal at all,” said Friedberg.

  • don't you believe it

    Nice Spin ….

    • Steve

      Maybe it was dark and there were construction cones everywhere, but the vehicle had headlights and hitting a human being can’t be even slightly similar to hitting a traffic cone — plus, after hitting SOMETHING, the driver must have looked in the rear-view and seen the out-of-gas car sitting on the shoulder.

      Senser will plea-bargain. She doesn’t want a jury to hear how the victim lay on the pavement, bleeding to death, where a 911 call might have saved his life. The fact that the gas station 200 yards away closed an HOUR before 911 was called is damning. And if Senser gets caught up in lies and/or gets scared and confesses that she was NOT the driver, she is guilty of lying to law enforcement, aiding and abetting the REAL driver, and obstruction of justice. They will have to throw her in jail THEN.

      Much is being made about the possibility that she is coverign up for a daughter. What kind of daughter lets her mother go to jail? Answer: a spoiled priveleged rich daughter.

  • Jack

    Hey rich people have good lawyers and great advice that is there advantages nothing else. This is played out like only the rich and good lawyers can do. None the less when it is all said and done she has to live with what she did which is despicable to say the least. All I can say is clear your conscience and own up to what you did and why. You are going to face the music as Casey Anthony will one day at the time of accountability when you die. Feel bad for the family and the victim but she will probably get away with it for now.

    • Dave's Not Here

      The time of accountability? That time expires with the person. I’m not sure if you know this, but if you kick a dead person in the head, they don’t feel any pain.

      There’s nobody in the clouds who will send you to a lake of fire for further punishiment, sir, and to suggest so is beyond odd, and bordering on completely delusional.

      Get help.

  • No I'm Not

    The Petters and Hecker crimes were Federal, so hardly a comparison.

  • Uncle Rico

    Arent people up norf shooting at each other or something? This story has been beat to death and is really starting to get boring.

    • HN

      Uncle…the dead man hasn’t even been buried. respect plz.

      • Uncle Rico

        How is this disrespectful? They’re throwing out fluff/oppinion pieces on this now cause it’s taking so long for everything to be gathered and move forward. it’s borring, not disrespectful, and I’m calling it out. Deal with it.

        • Michele

          It’s not boring to this man’s family, to the people who miss him. And this woman’s shrugging off of what she did, sticks in my craw. It reminds me of the aristocracy of France or Russia, before revolution.

          You want entertainment? Watch reality television.

          • Uncle Rico

            Perhaps “boring” is the wrong word to use when dealing with the WCCO message board knee jerkers. Look, my entire original post is a back hander towards the station and it’s reporting, as intended to be interpreted by the blatant sarcasm in asking if people are shooting each other up norf, something that is also not entertaining but often reported on cause it gets you guys all riled up. So again, empty pointless pieces like this only serve to get people like you riled up are boring and predictable, and solve nothing. You just don’t get it.

            • reb

              You don’t get you unsympathetic traitor. An innocent man was murdered by a wealthy MN Viking’s wife, who called their lawyer first instead of doing the right thing. You are pathetic, imbecilic and a disgrace, go back to the hills where you belong punk.

              • Man On Fire

                @reb the idiot. Murder- nope. Killed someone, yep, murdered them, not a chance. Get a clue. Additionally- innocent, in this case sure, but do a little research before you buy into CCO’s marketing on their news pieces. All those smiling pictures and attempts at class warfare work well on the naive like yourself; go look up this “innocent man’s” prior arrest records and felonies.

              • Uncle Rico

                @reb- thanks for proving Libs points you weirdo. Obviously you are one of the select few who also just doesn’t get it too.

            • lib

              Uncle you cannot use sarcasm or inuendo or a subtle writing style with this crowd. You are correct that CCO is milking this because of celebrity, and that is exactly why the people posting want this woman hung, simple class warfare, forget finding the facts, she has more than they and is a celebrity, (minor), so she must be guilty I can appreciate the family of the man who died, they want answers, as would I, however, I would want the truth, not just a chance to cash in on the death of a loved one.. Give the authorities a chance to sort this out.

  • HN

    Notice WCCO removed Joe Senser from their contributor list?? Before you ask us to “get real” why not “get real” yourselves;….
    On night of the crash, it was dark and construction cones were everywhere. Plus, just because Amy Senser says she was the driver, doesn’t mean that she was the driver, so the State Patrol may not have probable cause to make an arrest.
    Wow….WCCO is sure doing their best at being unbiased….

    • Mike Hawk

      And what about the blood on the car? As far as “the state patrol not having probable cause” to make a arrest because they don’t know if she was really driving? She said she was & that is enough. The people are smart enough to know a big spin & this is about as big as it gets. What has our justice system come to? The county attorney is a joke for letting this go on.

      • Dave's Not Here

        “She said she was & that is enough.”

        False. It must be provable.

        If I am charged with disorderly conduct, and plead guilty to the charge, I would then have to explain to the judge what makes me guilty and why, and he, in turn, would have to accept my plea based on what I could prove and what could be proven about what I declared.

        So yeah, what you just said is not true at all.

  • Jerry

    They may be treated equal if they can afford the attorney to begin with. At $300.00 dollars per hour a person has to be wealthy, or penny-less to get one.

  • Pavel

    Don’t kid yourself. When you have damage to a car as was the case you know you hit something. Especially when the news plays the story of the “hit and run”. Obviously, someone knew, but the rich and powerful always get off. Kind of reminds me of O.J……..

    Peace to the loved one.

  • Brewster

    Totally agree! A regular dude would be rotting in jail!

  • Mike

    Of course the wealthy are treated better using our justice system by their ability to afford good attorneys and hiring professional testimony. They also can delay process and hide behind constitutional amendments that work in their favor. It all gives the impression that they are receiving better treatment, but in reality, they are paying for it by using the system to their full advantage.

  • Concerned citizen2

    What a joke! Absolute nonsense. Any of us regular joes and janes would be in jail right now! Whose eyes are you trying to pull the wool over?? NEXT!!

  • tam

    Amy did the right thing. She didn’t spill her guts to the police, and she got a lawyer to represent her.

  • Eric

    I just don’t get how you can not relize you hit someone. He was standing next to his car filling it with gas so how could you not see the car at least. They are not going to put a construction cone directly in front of a parked car so I don’t understand why you wouldn’t stop to see what you hit even if you think you just hit the car.

    • idiocracy

      The problem is the state has to prove she knew she hit someone, which they won’t be able to do. They wouldn’t have even found her if she hadn’t turned herself in, so I don’t think they will be able to prove anything.

  • Elizabeth Troester

    It appears to be true that prominent people are treated better. Compare this to the case of the Hmong driver who was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison when his toyota hit and killed passengers in another car in St. Paul. This individual hit and killed a man (who I believe is Hmong), went home, and then did not even call the police. But no one has been arrested. Something is wrong here, and I don’t think it’s fair or just.

    • Dave's Not Here

      Phet was NOT HMONG, you complete idiot.

      Learn what you’re talking about, Elizabeth. You come off as a total buffoon when you say something so stupid.

      • Dale Gribble

        He was Asiatic, wasn’t he? What’s the difference? Hard working, smart, and criminally minded, all of them. Don’t trust ’em…

  • smb

    How about actually doing an investigative piece on how many times this type of case actually ends in prison time. Or just how other cases are handled.
    Instead of just regurgitating what the defendant’s lawyer says actually look up the true numbers. Then we can decide for ourselves whether Senser is getting preferential treatment.

    So far, though, the only thing this case is teaching me is….if nobody sees you then run from the scene and deny, deny, deny.

    • Uncle Rico


  • Jim Baccus

    I want to know why this women hasn’t been charged yet, what gives? I be if this was an Asian in a Toyota it would be a different story, oh ya.

  • Elmo

    A Judge said “A poor person in Court now, has the same chance as a Christian persecuted in Roman times”. Can’t afford a good lawyer, well welcome to prison.

  • Me

    The sad truth is that due to MN’s lax laws, Amy Sensor will probably be charged with a slap on the wrist such as failure to report an accident. Accidents of this sort practically have to have had a station wagon full of nuns and puppies being delivered to an orphanage of refugee children suffering from cancer. Look at the four yrs that drunk driver got for killing Malik Sealy. And even then, the driver only served three of the four yr sentence.

  • rimale

    This is such BULLS**T — of course the rich are treated differently !! People please stop patronizing this families business !!!! In my eyes they are trash !!!

  • Dale Gribble

    Job-creators like Joe Senser deserve special treatment. They are what make our country great.

  • idiocracy

    A wise man used to say-

    “How much justice can you afford?”

  • Jerry

    Exactly, she should be in jail without bail for leaving the scene of an accident.

  • Hmmm

    “Plus, just because Amy Senser says she was the driver, doesn’t mean that she was the driver, so the State Patrol may not have probable cause to make an arrest.”

    Dumbest thing I have ever heard…

    • Dave's Not Here

      If you don’t believe that statement, how did you find your way to this board?

      That statement was absolutely, 100% correct.

      If they can’t prove what she said, they can’t charge her with squat. Looks like you’ve just been proven clueless.

      • NavyVet

        I thought once the criminal admits or confesses to the crime then the prosecution charge the criminal and went to trial with the case!

  • Kari

    What a effin’ stupid question (you should start a new segment)
    YES – of course there’s a different standard!
    Has she been charged?

    • Dave's Not Here

      If they can’t prove she was driving (her word will not a guilty conviction bring) then there is nothing to charge her with yet.

      • Sarah

        I hope that gross bag relives the accident every night in her dreams

  • Yo Mammy

    That woman looks like something leftover from a scary Friday night out…

  • DeBlog: Are The Rich Treated Better In The Justice System? « CBS Minnesota

    […] {{url}}"}};}MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Tuesday night, we did a Good Question on whether rich/prominent people get special treatment in the justice system. We thought it made sense to interview an attorney who’s won some and lost some for prominent […]

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