MINNEAPOLIS -- The wife of former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser was sentenced Monday to nearly 3½ years in prison in a hit-and-run crash that killed a Thai restaurant chef.
An attorney for Amy Senser had sought probation, saying she was "deeply remorseful" about the accident last August that killed Anousone Phanthavong as he stood beside his car on a Minneapolis freeway ramp. But Hennepin County District Judge Daniel Mabley rejected that request, saying he felt Senser had avoided taking responsibility for the crash.
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"This avoidance of responsibility was not out of panic or confusion. It was orchestrated," Mabley told an overflowing courtroom in Minneapolis. "A certain momentum develops around these denials."
Senser, 45, was convicted in May of leaving the scene of an accident and failure to promptly report an accident, both felonies, in one of Minnesota's most closely watched criminal cases in years. She is likely to serve the first two-thirds of her sentence in prison and the rest on supervised release.
Mabley said the prison sentence was important to deter people from leaving the scene of crashes, saying such cases are happening more frequently.
Phanthavong's car had run out of gas and he was filling the tank on the side of the exit ramp near the Thai restaurant where he worked when he was struck and killed. Parts of a Mercedes were found at the scene, and authorities appealed to the public for help in finding the driver.
Nearly 24 hours later, Nelson called authorities to tell them they could pick up the vehicle involved at the Sensers'. But the Sensers didn't talk to police, fueling speculation about who was driving and whether alcohol was involved. It was more than a week later that Amy Senser admitted she was driving.
Before she was sentenced, Senser cried audibly as victim impact statements were read. She also cried later as she apologized to members of Phanthavong's family, some of whom wore T-shirts bearing his picture.
"I just hope someday you can forgive me for taking Anousone from you," she said. She added later: "I'm so very sorry."
Mabley sentenced Senser to 41 months in prison and rejected a request from her attorney, Eric Nelson, that she remain free on appeal.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press