Amy Senser received special treatment from justice system, report says

Amy Senser is a lucky woman, even with prison on the horizon
Amy Senser is a lucky woman, even with prison on the horizon

Amy Senser received special treatment from the criminal justice system when she killed True Thai chef Anousone Phanthavong last August, according to a report published by the Pioneer Press.

Senser killed Phanthavong last August, failed to report herself to law enforcement as the driver of the vehicle until her stepdaughter threatened to turn her in, and was found guilty of criminal vehicular homicide earlier this month.

The Pioneer Press pulled all 17 criminal vehicular homicide cases filed in Hennepin County from January 2009 to September 15, 2011, when Senser was charged, which showed "she was the only defendant who didn't spend at least a day in jail after arrest or while awaiting trial." She remains free until her sentencing in July.

In the cases, Pioneer Press reporters David Hanners and Mary Jo Webster found, the average criminal vehicular homicide defendant spent 75 days in jail, while six of them spent more than 120 days in jail.

For friends and family of Phanthavong, the lack of jail time shows that "rich people don't go to jail," True Thai owner Anna Prasomphol told the newspaper.

"The American saying is, 'Money talks.' I understand that better now than I did when I first came here," Prasomphol, herself an immigrant from Thailand, said.

The Pioneer Press found that Senser's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, made arrangements with the State Patrol not to arrest Senser when she turned herself into custody.

"Consistent with our discussions, Ms. Senser will not immediately be taken into custody as a result of providing this statement," Nelson wrote in a letter he faxed to the State Patrol, according to the paper. "I ask that the State Patrol issue charges by summons and complaint as Ms. Senser is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community."

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman disputed the newspaper's account, telling the Pioneer Press that Senser didn't get any "deal" on bail.

A defense attorney praised Nelson for "smart lawyering," and the State Patrol says it couldn't simply take Senser into custody.

But the newspaper contrasts Senser's treatment to that of Koua Fong Lee, a St. Paul man charged with criminal vehicular homicide in a 2007 crash that killed three people.

Lee was convicted but freed on appeal: His attorneys argued that his Toyota Camry accelerated and sped through an intersection due to a mechanical defect, not his driving.

"Koua Fong Lee did not flee the scene of his accident," Prasomphol told the paper. "He waited for the police, who took him straight to jail and then the prosecutor made sure he went straight to prison. Amy Senser drove off into the night, waited 10 days to turn herself in, and has yet to spend even one night in jail. You tell me how things work."

Check out the Pioneer Press's report and draw your own conclusions here.

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