CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WJZ/AP)— More than two decades behind bars. That’s the sentence for George Huguely, the Chevy Chase man convicted of killing Cockeysville native Yeardley Love.
Adam May has more.
Prosecutors were originally planning to get a life sentence but instead, according to the sentence handed down on Thursday, Huguely will be released from prison sometime in his early 40s.
Huguely stood up in court and looked right up at the family of his ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love and offered a brief, teary apology. Minutes later, a judge sentenced him to 23 years in prison for second-degree murder.
“All I see is loss,” prosecutor Dave Chapman said. “It will be that way forever.”
The emotionally drained prosecutor was hoping Huguely would serve the 26 years that the jury recommended. Defense attorneys were arguing for 14.
“We believe that the jurors here in Charlottesville got it right,” Chapman said. “The judge made some adjustment based on an appropriate factor to take into consideration which is the sentencing guidelines. I think together, they have gotten this case right.”
In all, the judge heard from about half a dozen witnesses. They exposed a pattern of violence, including a history of choking and punching people in their faces.
The formal sentencing hearing began at 1 p.m. Thursday. George Huguely appeared with longer hair and dressed in a prison jumpsuit.
Huguely’s family and friends took the stand offering a different side of the young man they affectionately called Georgie– good grades, popular and devoted to his family.
“We think that George was convicted of a crime inconsistent with the facts and he received a penalty inconsistent with what the evidence would require,” Rhonda Quagliana, Huguely’s defense attorney, said.
A Roman Catholic priest testified that Huguely is a spiritual person who displayed no anger or aggression in his presence.
The Rev. Joseph Scordo said he has visited Huguely weekly in jail since the May 2010 slaying of Yeardley Love. He said the “wild, out-of-control” person that Huguely has been portrayed as is not the man he knows.
In February, jurors made the difficult decision of recommending a 26 year prison sentence. They heard gory details describing how Huguely broke into Love’s off-campus apartment in May 2010 and beat the Cockeysville native to death in a drunken rage.
“We all did not think the killing was premeditated. We don’t think that he went over there with the purpose of killing Yeardley Love,” said juror Ian Glomski.
In February, Love’s mother made an emotional plea to the court for a tough sentence, speaking publicly about the tragedy a few months ago.
“My daughter was murdered almost two years ago at the University of Virginia by an out-of-control lacrosse player with a violent past,” Sharon Love said. “Our lives will never be the same.”
Yeardley Love’s mother Sharon Love and sister Lexie Love sat through hours of testimony, hearing of Huguely’s previous acts of drunken violence and recollections of the day Love was beaten to death in her off-campus apartment at the University of Virginia in May 2010.
In a statement, they said: “We would like to thank everyone who worked so tirelessly on Yeardley’s behalf. We are relieved to put this chapter behind us. Again, we would like to thank everyone for showing us such kindness during the most difficult time of our lives.”
Huguely’s mother submitted a letter to the judge. It reads: “Please have mercy and be lenient and compassionate to my beautiful son. I don’t have enough words to describe my deep sorrow for the loss of Yeardley’s life.”
Huguely’s family released the following statement after the sentence was announced: “Today is a sad day for our family. The past 28 months have been the most difficult in our lives. We love George and will always support him.
We continue to believe what Mr. Lawrence said within hours of meeting George, on May 3, 2010: ‘Yeardley’s death was not intended but an accident with a tragic outcome.’
Yeardley will always be in our hearts. We hope and pray that the passage of time will bring some semblance of peace and healing to each and everyone who has been affected by this tragedy most especially the Love family.”
This case is far from over. The defense is planning to appeal the conviction and sentence. There is no parole or probation in Virginia but there are good time credits. With that, Huguely could be released from prison in 17 1/2 years.
The Love family has filed a $35 million lawsuit against Huguely.