Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) -- George W. Huguely V, the former University of Virginia lacrosse player convicted of beating to death his sometimes girlfriend, Yeardley Love, was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire in Charlottesville, Virginia, imposed the punishment today after a jury found Huguely guilty of second-degree murder on Feb. 22. Jurors recommended a 25-year sentence for the crime, an intentional killing that, unlike first degree murder, isn’t premeditated.
The jury “looked at the evidence with great care,” Hogshire said during the sentencing hearing. “What they saw evidence of was a brutal beating,” he said. “The level of violence was palpable.”
Hogshire gave Huguely, 24, no additional time for stealing Love’s computer, saying the one-year sentence recommended by the jury would run concurrently with the term for murder. He also put Huguely under three years of supervision after his release from prison.
At one point during the almost four-hour hearing, Huguely, dressed in a striped prison uniform, stood at the defense counsel’s table, his voice breaking, and said to Love’s mother and sister, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope and pray you find peace.”
The death of Love, who was 22, raised awareness of domestic violence on college campuses and led to a push for federal and state laws expanding reporting requirements and information-sharing between law enforcement agencies, said Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus, an advocacy group.
Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, was acquitted of first-degree murder, robbery, burglary, breaking and entering and murder in the commission of a robbery. Found guilty of beating Love to death in her bedroom at her Charlottesville apartment, Huguely told police he had no intention of killing her.
He asked the judge for a sentence of no more than 14 years.
While Virginia law doesn’t allow for parole, Huguely could cut his sentence by 15 percent with credit for good conduct in prison, according to a state Department of Corrections document.
“We are relieved to put this chapter behind us,” Love’s mother, Sharon, and sister, Lexie, said in a statement handed to reporters after the sentencing. “We would like to thank everyone for showing us such kindness during the most difficult time of our lives.”
The Huguely family released its own statement, saying they still believed George hadn’t intentionally caused Love’s death.
“We love George and will always support him,” they said. “We hope and pray that the passage of time will bring some semblance of peace and healing to each and every one who has been affected by this tragedy, most especially the Love family.”
Love’s family has sued the state and university officials seeking more than $29 million in damages, alleging they failed to properly handle a 2009 incident where Huguely attacked a lacrosse teammate while drunk. Her family has also filed a lawsuit against Huguely.
In a final statement to Hogshire, prosecutor Warner Chapman said there were three wakeup calls for Huguely before Love’s death: the attack on a fellow UVA student, an arrest in Lexington, Virginia, in 2008 after drunken confrontation with a police officer, and a surprise attack on a lacrosse teammate. He presented three witnesses who recounted violent encounters with Huguely.
“Sooner or later he was going to seriously injure or kill someone,” Chapman said. “The issue isn’t too much alcohol, the issue is too much violence.”
The defense offered four witnesses, including Huguely’s aunt, who supported his lawyer’s argument that the three incidents were isolated and didn’t characterize the life of a young man they said was a leader, spiritually oriented and a religious Catholic.
Love’s badly bruised body was discovered by a friend and fellow player on her lacrosse team who went to her apartment at about 2 a.m. on May 3, 2010. Love, of Cockeysville, Maryland, was in her bedroom, face down on a pillow in a pool of blood.
Huguely told police investigators he entered Love’s apartment through the unlocked front door and then kicked open the door to her bedroom. He said the two had an altercation during which he “shook Love and her head repeatedly hit the wall,” according to an affidavit filed by prosecutors.
At his trial prosecutors portrayed Huguely as a violent man who intentionally murdered the young woman.
The defense attempted to show that Huguely and Love had a tempestuous relationship animated by jealousies that led both to lash out physically.
As jurors weighed the case, they asked to see a handwritten letter put into evidence that Huguely sent Love in February 2010, in which he apologized for putting her in a choke hold. In the letter, found by police with Love’s belongings, Huguely wrote, “Alcohol is ruining my life. I’m scared to know that I can get drunk to the point where I can’t control how I act.”
The case is Commonwealth of Virginia v. Huguely, 11-00102, Virginia Circuit Court (Charlottesville).
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