George Huguely, the University of Virginia lacrosse player convicted of the 2010 killing of his college girlfriend and women’s lacrosse team member Yeardley Love, was sentenced yesterday to 23 years in prison. Judge Edward Hogshire deviated from the 26 years recommended by the jury that convicted Huguely of second-degree murder back in February.
The handsome young man who smashed in Love’s door before beating and choking her until the blood could not flow to her brain looked much heavier than he did over two years ago when he was first arrested. Huguely had been drinking all day during a father-son lacrosse team outing and had tried to hook up with other girls before taking the fatal trip to his estranged girlfriend’s apartment.
Huguely, now 24 years old, took the opportunity to address Love’s mother and sister in court: “Mrs. Love and Lexie, I am so sorry for your loss. I hope and pray you find peace.” Turning to his own supporters, he added: “I want to thank my family and friends for your support.”
In the sentencing hearing, Huguely’s defense team called his friends, family, and even his priest to the stand to discuss the defendant’s good nature and forgiveness. Several other family members submitted letters to the court asking the judge for leniency.
However, the Commonwealth made a powerful, emotional argument for the maximum sentence. Prosecutor Dave Chapman drew tears from Love’s family and supporters when he told the court that Yeardley’s sister Lexie is soon to be married, but “the maid of honor is missing.”
Chapman also called a series of witnesses to show that Huguely’s violent nature had surfaced several times before the Love incident. Gavin Gill, a teammate of Huguely’s, recounted a hook-up with Love (who had broken up with Huguely) which was followed later that night by Huguely attacking Gill while he slept.
A former UVA co-ed took the stand to tell the court about a 2008 incident in which Huguely choked her because she told his father (and former coach) about the young man’s excessive drinking. Another woman said that Huguely once punched her male companion in a jealous rage.
Judge Hogshire referred back to that testimony during his sentencing, calling it “a preview of the kind of violence Mr. Huguely is capable of under the influence of alcohol.”
Just before he was led out of the courtroom, courtwatchers say Huguely turned to his mother, Marta Murphy and mouth “I love you.” After the proceedings, both sides issued statements to the media in lieu of speaking. The Huguely family reiterated their support for George and then tried to console the Loves: “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.” The Love family statement expressed some relief “to put this chapter behind us.” They thanked prosecutors for their hard work and added an aside toward the defendant’s family: “We find no joy in others’ sorrow.”
Although Huguely will not see the light of day for some time — Virginia law says he must serve 85% of his sentence before he is eligible for release — he may see another courtroom before his release. Yeardley Love’s family has filed two civil actions — one against the University of Virginia athletic department and lacrosse team, and another against George Huguely himself — both suits ask for roughly $30 million.