Missing Huguelys: And other damaging would-be witnesses
There couldn't have been a more critical moment in the life of George W. Huguely V, and one of his parents wasn't there to see it.
After a trial that lasted more than two weeks and jury deliberations that spanned more than nine hours, at just before 6:45pm on Wednesday, February 21, a light-bulb signaling a verdict illuminated, prompting a panicked flurry of tweets from reporters and bringing courtwatchers scurrying back to Charlottesville Circuit Court.
The now 24-year-old former UVA lacrosse player charged with first degree murder in the May 3, 2010 death of his one-time girlfriend Yeardley Love crossed himself and sat silently as he prepared to learn his fate from the 12-member jury. But with the possibility of a life sentence hanging, and tension in the room palpable, conspicuously absent was his father, George W. Huguely IV.
Even more curious to some courtwatchers was the fact that after the return of the verdict– guilty of second-degree murder and grand larceny– and before the jury began sentencing deliberations, not one person besides a lone member of his own legal team spoke on behalf of the newly convicted killer to recall any positive traits or to ask for leniency.
Where was his family when he needed them?
The absence of Huguely's father seems particularly ironic since he had been part of a pre-trial effort to win permission to attend the trial even though expecting to testify at sentencing. However, Judge Edward Hogshire denied the motion that would have permitted that.
The 56-year-old, who sports a haircut some have likened to Benjamin Franklin's, and who, court testimony revealed, had controversially been his son's drinking partner during a beer-soaked golf tournament earlier on the day of Love's death, had been a regular if lonely fixture around the courthouse on previous days. He had once been seen running over by himself and entering a side door, perhaps in an attempt to bypass the throngs of local and national media who'd been camped in front of the courthouse since jury selection began on February 6.
While he's avoided making any comment to the press about his son's case over the past 21 months, the elder Huguely hasn't been able to avoid making the wrong kind of news of his own.
In addition to facing foreclosure proceedings on his million-dollar River Road home in Potomac, the elder Huguely lost an eight-acre parcel on Morgantown Road in Ivy to Virginia National Bank last year. His own legal woes climaxed when he was arrested in Montgomery County after a dispute with two joggers.
The charge was driving while intoxicated after a September 20 incident in which one of the joggers reportedly hit his black Chevy Suburban. Soon after the altercation, according to the Washington Post, Huguely was spotted by police driving erratically and running a red light.
His trial is scheduled for April 3 in Montgomery County District Court. Huguely IV did not respond to a reporter's emailed request for comment, and a call to his son's defense attorneys was rebuffed by a receptionist.
"We're not making any further comments," she said, referring the reporter to a statement released the night of the verdict, a statement silent on the father's physical absence from court.
Huguely's lawyers, Rhonda Quagliana and Fran Lawrence, came under fire during trial from observers– she for illness and he for accusing Love of physical violence over a purse-smack– and the judge heaped opprobrium upon the defense for initiating improper information-sharing between witnesses. However, the lack of character witnesses may be explained simply as savvy strategy.
"If they'd had anyone testify at all about his character in a positive way," says Hook legal analyst David Heilberg, "they open the door for the prosecution to present rebuttal witnesses."
Such witnesses, Heilberg says, could have revealed several unflattering stories about Huguely's proclivity for violence before killing Love. Indeed, according to sources inside the courtroom on the night of the verdict, the prosecution had several female witnesses on deck plus the former UVA lacrosse teammate reportedly victimized in an allegedly violent assault by Huguely.
In February 2009– more than a year before Love's death– an intoxicated Huguely reportedly became enraged by the possibility that the teammate had kissed Love. While the man slept in his own apartment, according to the Washington Post, Huguely punched him in the face with this taunt: "Sweet dreams, punk." (The Post report noted that both Huguely and the victim downplayed the event when their lacrosse coach, Dom Starsia, noticed bruises. Neither man faced any legal action.)
Another witness that defense would have hoped to keep off the stand is Rebecca L. Moss. The Lexington police officer who encountered an intoxicated and belligerent Huguely, Moss later revealed that Huguely resisted arrest to the point that a "tussle" ensued as she tried to arrest him.
"I'll kill all of you," Moss reported that Huguely shouted as the 5'3", 130-pound Moss realized she was "no match" for the 6'2", 209-pound college athlete. She eventually wielded a Taser to subdue him.
So what does UVA think about all this? While the president released a statement following the verdict expressing condolences to both families and reminding peers to look out for each other, UVA took one other action in the wake of its only student-on-student murder.
All bios of Huguely during his four years on the lacrosse team have been erased from the athletic department's website. It's as if he never existed.Attached Documents:This story is a part of the Huguely trial coverage special.