Ruling expected this week on Amy Senser's release during appeal - KMSP-TV

Joe Senser speaks out as wife seeks release amid appeal

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

Amy Senser was back in court Monday for a "do-over" in her effort to get out of prison while she appeals her deadly hit-and-run conviction, but the focus of the day became largely about her husband's first public reaction to the trial.

Attorneys say her chances of appeal aren't that great, but Monday's hearing wasn't as much about her as it was about the judge in the case.

Judge Daniel Mabley ruled this summer that Senser would stay in the Shakopee women's prison while the appeal of her 41 month sentence for hitting and killing Anousone Phanthavong worked its way through the system.

Her lawyer didn't like the decision, but that was the judge's right. The problem is, the judge didn't say why he denied Senser's release.

A panel of state appeals court judges ruled in late August that Judge Mabley has to give his reasons for denying her release, and that's why the re-hearing was called for Monday morning.

Mabley said he would rule later this week on whether or not to grant Senser's release. The judge can stay with his original decision, and if he does, Senser's attorney will likely file another appeal with the court and it can rule on the reasons.

Attorney Eric Nelson says Senser should be released because she's not a flight risk and has strong ties to the community. Ultimately, Nelson says prosecutors never proved Senser knew she hit anybody and that she was convicted based on faulty jury instructions.

"The legal system often times is like politics -- you spin it," Nelson said.

After the hearing, an apparently angry and emotional Joe Senser spoke for 16 minutes, accusing Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman of lying, manipulating the process and making Amy Senser "public enemy number one before any evidence was brought forward."

"Before this trial started (Freeman) was able to manipulate this process that allowed for that conviction," Senser said. "So here I stand today, hopeful that now the appellate judges will have an opportunity to look at this -- that her defense was not allowed in that court room over that nine-day period."

Senser said his family has not been able to tell their side of the story. Instead, he said the story jurors heard was an intentional misrepresentation of fact.

"Today was just another indication of what I believe is a process gone wrong," Senser said. "Today is a day I want to start leveling the playing field."

Joe Senser began his critique by blasting the prosecutions effort to use Amy's legally granted silence against her.

"Elected County Attorney Freeman would like you to believe that Senser waited 10 days before she came forward after that accident. Nothing could be further from the truth," he said.

According to Joe Senser, Freeman knew about the accident minutes after the family's attorney reported it the next day. He added that law enforcement officers could have questioned any member of his family after that, but he says they opted not to.

"I want all Minnesotans to know that at no time during this process did Amy Senser ever try to hide, did she try to get away with an accident that caused the death of Anousone Phanthavong," he said, before saying Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman behaved unethically in the trial.

Senser continued on, calling the trial a circus and accusing the prosecution of twisting his testimony in court.

"He made it look like she was irresponsible and turned what I said about 'Amy World,' as being this good and loving and decent and caring and putting others first -- into this irresponsible woman who is a rich, white housewife," he said.

Joe Senser also blasted Freeman for refusing to discuss a change of venue request or talking about a note the jurors handed in with the verdict, which did not surface until days after the trial.

Joe Senser said that his family has been under attack since the trial, adding that he no longer knows who is friend or foe -- and he believes it is because of how his wife was portrayed and politicized during the trial.

"If I sound upset, it's because anybody that knows me knows that if you want to get the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up, start threatening my family. That's what elected County Attorney Freeman did when he lied about Amy Senser to the public," he said. "He wanted you to believe something other than the truth."

He then tried to set the record straight, saying his wife is a loving person who would do anything to help others and accusing prosecutors of "bastardizing" who she is.

"She was the one who would take the minority to the prom when no one else would," Joe Senser said. "I've lived with her for 24 years. We have never ... gone somewhere without her stopping to pick up an animal that was on the road, a human being that was looking for money. She single-handedly went to Lima, Peru and started adopting families. Does that sound like somebody that would run away from her responsibility? No."

He did say that Amy Senser needs to be held accountable for the crash, but he reaffirmed his belief that she has never lied to him and honestly did not know she had hit someone. 

Joe Senser also apologized to the Minnesota Vikings for him being referred to as a former Viking throughout news coverage of the trial. He said he wants that to stop, since July 21, 1985 was the last time he was a member of the Vikings.

"You cannot find a story that doesn't mention that she's married to a former player," Senser said. "Ladies and gentleman, I've been a lot of former things."

He closed his statement by asking the press to watch for retaliation from Freeman, which he said is coming.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office declined request for comment.

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