No show: New charges, but Huguely murder hearing delayed again
Reporters hoping to catch a glimpse of George Wesley Huguely V, the wealthy college lacrosse player who became a striped-jumpsuit-wearing inmate, were denied another opportunity on Monday, January 10, as his lawyer won a third continuance in the case in which Huguely is charged with slaying his ex-girlfriend.
"Judge, I can say that both sides have been moving with diligence," declared Huguely lawyer Fran Lawrence. "There's just a lot of stuff that's still out there."
Lawrence noted that the defense team, which also includes Rhonda Quagliana, has yet to examine about 20 of the approximately 112 items arrayed in the case against their client, a 23-year-old whose previous spurts of violence went unpublicized until he allegedly erupted last spring in a fatal rage.
On May 3 inside an apartment on 14th Street, Charlottesville police found the lifeless body of Yeardley Love, a fellow lacrosse player. They arrested Huguely, who lived next door, after he allegedly confessed to repeatedly bashing the young woman's head into a wall of her bedroom and then returning to take her computer and toss it in a dumpster.
Lawyer Lawrence has termed the incident a tragic accident, and he seems eager to win a round in the public relations battle. On Friday, January 7, Charlottesville’s top prosecutor revealed a new set of charges against Huguely: felony murder, robbery, burglary, statutory burglary, and grand larceny. Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman didn't, however, mention the charge that got it all started, first-degree murder. Lawrence seized on that.
"We think it is significant that the amended charges acknowledge that there was no premeditation," Lawrence said in a prepared statement.
"That's his spin on it," says legal analyst David Heilberg. "The Commonwealth wants to maximize its leverage, and felony murder"–- typically filed for killing during a robbery–- "is just another theory."
The receptionist in the Commonwealth's Attorney's office confirms that the original charges have not been dropped, and Lawrence declined to answer questions after Monday's hearing.
The case has attracted such widespread national attention that a vaguely-sourced December story about an allegedly impending plea deal caused even respected national media outlets such as CBS to devote multiple minutes of television airtime to rehashing the case. As it turned out, the only real development in the case last month came when the defense asked Judge Robert Downer of Charlottesville General District Court to probe the dead woman's medical records.
At a December 15 hearing, Lawrence produced a Richmond doctor who asserted that Love may have died not from blunt-force trauma–- as the state Medical Examiner ruled–- but from her own prescription to Adderall, a stimulant widely used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Lawrence remains free to pursue the Adderall defense, but Judge Downer denied the wider medical probe.
Huguely was originally set to have his preliminary hearing in June. The first continuance pushed it to October. At the close of the January 10 hearing, the Commonwealth Attorney offered to work out a revised date with the defense before January 21, the date set for hearing that will be pushed back again. "That information," says Chapman, "will be online, or people can call our office to find out."