MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The attorney for Amy Senser is asking for a change of venue for her upcoming trial in the hit-and-run death of a 38-year-old man last August.
A judge ruled Friday morning that Senser is to stand trial on criminal vehicular homicide charges in the death of Anousone Phanthavong, who was killed on Aug. 23, 2011 after being struck by a vehicle along the Riverside Avenue exit from westbound Interstate 94.
Last month, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office filed a memorandum opposing defense attorney Eric Nelson’s motion to dismiss Senser’s charges, saying “sufficient evidence exists to establish probable cause for each of the charges in the complaint.”
The amended charges claimed that Senser should’ve had at least four seconds to notice Phanthavong on the side of the road. The charges also included a statement from a witness who claimed to have seen Senser’s vehicle driving erratically, dipping between lanes and moving at inconsistent speeds.
On Friday, at a pretrial hearing, a judge ruled the charges will stand and the case should proceed to trial.
The next steps in the case include a motion hearing on April 16 with Judge Daniel H. Mabley preceding a jury trial currently scheduled to begin April 23. Senser has formally filed pleas of not guilty to the charges.
Nelson also filed a motion to change the trial’s venue, citing numerous comments on local media outlets’ comment sections.
“We don’t believe it is possible for Mrs. Senser to receive a fair and impartial trial in Hennepin County. As a result of the intense media speculation and what we’re able to actually see through Facebook and other social media … are literally thousands and thousands of comments, most of which express either violent reactions or violent sexual reactions towards Mrs. Senser — threats to her safety, her families safety, my safety,” said Nelson. “And the bulk of these comments come form Twin Cities residents.”
Nelson said the defense is taking the position that Hennepin County has “inserted its opinion improperly” by “deliberately misstating pieces of evidence.”
Nelson said they would like to suggest moving the trial to Kandiyohi County.
“Ultimately that decision — if the judge grants the change of venue motion — the judge would decide where,” said Nelson. “At this state in the proceedings, the presumptions are all favoring the state. And it doesn’t change the defense in any way whatsoever, it simply moves it into a different form where the presumptions will favor Mrs. Senser.”
Senser is the wife of former Minnesota Vikings player Joe Senser.