MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — After three days of deliberations, a jury has found Amy Senser guilty on two of the three felony counts in the fatal hit-and-run crash. The wife of ex-Minnesota Viking Joe Senser will be sentenced on July 9.
Senser was found guilty on count one and two, but not guilty on count three — the criminal vehicular homicide gross negligence count. Senser was also found guilty of the misdemeanor charge of careless driving.
The jury said Senser is guilty of hitting and killing Thai restaurant chef Anousone Phanthavong and said they believe she knew she struck someone and was negligent in reporting that information to police. They believe she was also driving carelessly at the time of the crash.
The judge had the option to send Amy Senser to jail or prison immediately after Thursday’s verdict was announced. Instead, he let Senser out until sentencing and that decision was not unusual, according to Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Eric Newmark.
“She’s obviously lived here a long time,” Newmark said. “She doesn’t have a criminal record; she’s not likely to flee.”
The two felony charges that Senser was found guilty of could carry a maximum sentence of eight years, each. The prosecution will ask for four years on the first count and could ask for another four on the second count.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said it was a clearly tough decision for the jury, based on the length of deliberations, but in the end justice was served.
“I think if you’re driving a car and you have an accident, the state legislators and all the rest of us believe you have a duty to stop, and that is clearly something that Miss Senser did not do,” he said.
Freeman said on WCCO Radio that they will be asking for a four-year sentence for Amy Senser.
The family of Anousone Phanthavong said they are happy with the decision and that justice has been served but say they’re very thankful to be done with this process.
“We’re thankful for the jurors that they found justice and did the right thing,” said Souksavanh Phanthavong.
The Senser’s attorney, Eric Nelson, said Amy and Joe were mostly shocked when the verdict was read. She said this entire time she has continued to stress that she didn’t know.
“She has insisted that she didn’t see him and she wants the world to believe that’s the truth,” he said.
Nelson said they will likely appeal some of the decisions of the jury. But for now, Amy plans to spend time with her family for these next few months before the sentencing.
Jurors, made up of seven men and five women, have been sequestered since deliberations began. Senser was charged with three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide and one misdemeanor count of careless driving in the Aug. 23 crash.
Prosecutors say she must have known she struck the Roseville man as he stood beside his stalled car on a Minneapolis freeway ramp. Senser says she had no idea she hit him until much later. She argued that she thought she hit a construction barrel.
WCCO asked a number of jurors for comment as they left the courthouse. All of them declined, looking worn out and ready to go home.
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Hennepin County Attorney Reacts
Anousone Phanthavong’s Family Reacts
Amy Senser’s Attorney Eric Nelson