Amy Senser letters of support reveal another side of Amy

Categories: Tragedy
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Amy Senser's family supports her
Amy Senser will be sentenced later this morning for killing Anousone Phanthavong in a hit-and-run last August.

Prosecutors want Senser to serve nearly five years in prison, the maximum; her defense attorney, Eric Nelson, seeks probation. To bolster his argument for leniency, Nelson submitted 113 letters to the court attesting to Amy Senser's character. Those testimonials from friends and family present a portrait of a kind, loving woman who deserves the court's mercy.

"One phrase that I have kept repeating since August is, 'There for the grace of God go I...'" wrote Senser's cousin, Lynn Zarling, in one plea. "Please consider my dear cousin Amy's character and what she has to offer not only her family and young daughters, but the rest of the world."

Senser's supporters range from Minnesota's elite -- former Viking Mike Mullaney and ex-congressman Jim Ramstad vouched for her in letters to Hennepin County Judge Daniel Mabley -- to Peruvians.

Just about every letter submitted on Senser's behalf doubts Senser would drive away from the scene of an accident knowing she hit someone, despite a jury of her peers finding her guilty of that offense this spring.

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Anousone Phanthavong was killed by Amy Senser
Veronica Vargas Chacaltana wrote from Tupac Amaru de Villa in Peru: "I in this letter declare with sincerity and frankness that Amy Senser is a great person."

Chacaltana recounts a story about her nephew, Miguel Vasquez Vargas, who was born with Treacher Collins disease. Amy helped Miguel receive medical care and when he came to Minnesota, the Senser family welcomed him into their home for four months.

"Because of the great love that Amy Senser and her family gave to Miguel he felt like he was part of their family," Chacaltana wrote. "They did not receive any money in exchange; only our love and gratefulness."

That spirit of generosity extended to the less-privileged in Minnesota, according to Senser's karate coach. She helped a family friend named Justin, whose family could not afford karate lessons, pay for classes.

"I can't really say I was surprised," wrote Hamed Firouzi. "This is just the type of thing that Amy does."

Some of the letters contain bizarre lines. Donna Baker, a client at the chiropractor's office where Senser worked, recounted a conversation she had with Senser "early on after this terrible accident."

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Anna Prasomphol has been a critic of Amy Senser's since the deadly hit-and-run
Senser couldn't tell Baker much about the accident except that she didn't know she had hit someone and that she deeply "regretted not stopping and checking for sure."

Baker responded, "I probably wouldn't have gotten out of my car either as we've all heard the warnings about a woman alone at night not getting out of their car for fear of being attacked."

Another letter-writer, Susan Johnson, says she's known Amy "since she was a toddler." Johnson calls Amy a "dear person" who has been victimized by others' irresponsibility.

"While I feel everyone involved in this case has tried their best to do what they thought was right, I believe bad decisions have been made, and Amy is now the victim of them," Johnson wrote. "I ask you what the responsibility of the deceased is in all of this? He ran out of gas and his car stopped on a ramp where it is illegal to park, there were no lights, and construction all around. He should not have been there and he should not have been on cocaine, which is also illegal."

Johnson also suggested the city of Minneapolis is partially at-fault for the tragedy.

"What is the city's responsibility in all of this, allowing a very dangerous and confusing construction stretch exiting the freeway to be open and not having proper lighting?"

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Joe Senser's wife faces sentencing today
Others, like Hopkins school district gym coach Brian Cosgriff, call Senser a "gift from God." Cosgriff characterizes Senser as the kind of parent "that schools can only dream about having within their school community."

"In my humble opinion, our community would be in a far more dangerous place if Amy Senser were incarcerated," Cosgriff wrote.

Instead of sentencing Senser to prison, the letter-writers generally urge Judge Mabley to give her some form of community service so she can continue to do good for the world.

"Amy would be a tremendous candidate to have a punishing schedule of speaking to youth groups and other civic organizations," says Bill Arnold, a family friend for more than 20 years. "Heck, I could even help her with her presentation."

One of the more interesting letters came from Amy Senser's father, who addressed the longstanding charges that Senser was given special treatment by the system due to her wealth.

"I am hurt by the way the media has depicted this tragedy as a contrast between 'privilege' and 'poor immigrant boy,'" Keith Olson wrote. "The Amy I have known for 45 years, although privileged in many ways at this point in her life, has always had a basic tendency to respond and relate to the marginalized and the not-privileged in this world. She is the kindest and most accepting person I know."

Even if Amy spends time in prison (which is the likely result of sentencing today), Olson said he's sure of one thing:

"Her spirit of inclusiveness and kindness will not be destroyed," Olson wrote. "And in some mysterious way a small part of that prison will be left a better place."

See the full letters of support on the next page. Kelsey Reid contributed reporting to this story.


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31 comments
Karen
Karen

I think your confused. The man was driving while under the influence of cocaine. He was the head chef at a restaurant. He prepared food for patrons while under the influence of cocaine. The owner of this restaurant allowed this man to work while high on cocaine. This owner has no respect for his patrons. Why did he allow his employee to work under the influence? The owner did nothing. Obviously the restaurant owner's profits were more important than the safety of his patrons. Truly sad! Phanthavong's family made no attempt to get help for his drug addiction. The family did nothing to keep him off the road. The Phanthavong family did nothing to help that man and therefore put others at risk....those eating at the restaurant and driving the nearby roads. That man meant nothing to his family. Instead he was used as an opportunity to sue for some "easy money".

Jill_Is_A_Retard
Jill_Is_A_Retard

So, Jill tells us to have some compassion.  A rich overprivileged white lady kills someone and we are supposed to have some compassion for her?  Are you kidding me.  This lady lives a life most people can only dream of and she took someone else's life away from them and we are supposed to have some compassion?  I am simply amazed that a person would come on here and attempt to defend a killer.  What kind of a low life is this Jill character?  I hope this whole family and everyone who ever knew this killer suffers for this incident. 

Jill_Is_A_Retard
Jill_Is_A_Retard

 How the hell would you know if she is a bad person or not?  So, what then is the difference between a bad person and a good person who makes a series of bad choices?  So, in your world we could call Jeffery Dahmer a good person who also just made a series of "bad choices"?  Or any criminal for that matter.  Not reporting a crime is not something a good person does.  There is no gray area here.  She is a bad person regardless of how many letters anyone sends it.  I hope she suffers in prison. 

SarahB
SarahB

Ring a bell?    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/news_cut/archive/2011/09/journalism_and_the_lynch_mob_mentality.shtml He was right then and look how it played out.  You hated (envied?) the (what you are assuming is) rich, white woman from Edina.  No, maybe you hated the miscarriage of justice on so many individuals - many, many who are individuals of color- who could not afford proper counsel.  As a member of ISAIAH, volunteer at Tubman Family Services and a volunteer in the Hennepin County Court System - I GET IT; speaking to the choir here.  But what was formed here was a lynch mob that affected everything from the filing of charges down to the final response. A lynch mob based on individuals who either experienced a miscarriage of justice (very likely based on race) or pure hatred of anything that smells of money.  And our county attorney responded by filing charges to that lynch mob.  You do recall that he is an elected official, right?  As you run with your pitchforks in hand to crucify this woman do you also think how this win will help his re-election campaign?  Can't help, eh?  Aww, do you feel a little used? I am so very sad to see such narrow-minded, mean-spirited comments amongst my fellow Minnesotans.  So very sad.

Bruce Burnside
Bruce Burnside

She could have used her cell phone to call the police and remain in the safety of her vehicle while they checked the accident scene for victims. Unfortunately she was not thinking clearly and chose to leave the scene of an accident where a man was later found dead. She is not a bad person, but she made a series of bad choices that led her to the position she finds herself in today. I would go with 1 year jail time and 5 years probation-never underestimate the pain of being in a prison 24 hours a day 365 days a year while the world goes by outside your cell window. 

igneous
igneous

I understand that these people know Amy in a totally different light. She killed someone... yes killed. I also understand that Anousone's family has forgiven her. The disgusting part of this is our legal system and how it is different based upon your actions and wealth... It is unfortunate but we have two other cases currently in the news to help compare... One in Coon Rapids where the "accused" fled the scene and tried to hide evidence and one in St Paul who is an illegal immigrant with no license but whom stayed on the scene horrified at what he had done... Let's see how the cases play out...  Those who wrote in her defense about being angry about wealthy vs the poor... please drop it, it is NOT about the people but the lawyers and the direction of the disclosure and admittance of guilt, period.  It personally sickens me that the Sensor family did not disclose the driver.  I personally believe that the defense strategy was to say that they could not prove who the driver was. I commend Brittani for coming forward and trying to balance family and what is right. Personally I think she has had a much more difficult path than Amy. I am very disappointed that it took until this week for Amy to formally apologize to his family. Nobody can say what they would do in a situation like this, but the way that this was handled was wrong and it SCREAMS of the wealthy VS the poor. People make bad decisions sometimes and sometimes the results are very horrible and can't be taken back. Regardless it is still upon us to declare that we made a bad decision regardless of the consequence and own up to it and accept our punishment. Suck it up Amy and serve your time, you forever harmed a family and can not undo what you have done. Accept it, apologize, own the responsibility, and move on.   

Jill
Jill

That is just a disrespectful remark.

Peter
Peter

After hearing the garbage her lawyer spewed out since this started, it is my sincerest hope that one of his loved ones gets splattered by someone just like her.

pso1
pso1

I don't think putting Amy in jail is the answer. What happened there could have happened to anyone, and I do believe that she thought she hit something and I'm sure it did not even cross her mind at the time, that it could be another person. She was probably in shock and afraid of what just occurred that the only thing she thought to do at the time was to drive home while in shock. I've been in that position before, while picking my daughter up late in the evening, I ran over a center devider on a freeway, and went into complete shock! It felt at the time that it could have been anything i hit, and not just a curb. She probably feels worse than anyone in this situation, and putting her in jail is not the thing to do. Minnesota courts are JAIL HAPPY, and ruin peoples lives in the process.

Kari
Kari

Yes, turning on the hazard lights would have been a good choice. But waiting for the police? Fat chance. I've lived in Uptown for 6 years and probably witness on average 2 hit and runs that involve parked cars each year. Each and every time I call the police to report it and each and every time they tell me they'll be out to get my statement and assess the damage within the hour. And each and every time they've never shown up and I end up leaving a detailed note for the person whose car was hit. Maybe if our police weren't so overworked and were properly staffed we wouldn't have these problems.

Kari
Kari

Since when is it illegal to run out of gas? If it is, I'm surprised. Also, if you ran out of gas, what else are you supposed to do but get out and try to solve the problem? Not everyone can afford AAA. Also, bringing up his drug use is silly. There was no conclusive proof whether those drugs played any part in the events that happened. Would you like it if people kept speculating on whether or not Amy had been drinking? There wasn't enough evidence to prove conclusively that alcohol played any part of Amy's part. I guess I will never understand why she didn't pull over. As a woman, if I hit something (whether I thought it was a person or traffic construction barrel) I'm still going to pull over and make sure my car is driveable. And to say that she was in an unsafe neighborhood? Laughable. That statement is all relative. And the salt in the wound that a hospital is not far away from the crime scene makes it hard for many people to have overwhelming compassion for Amy. I'm not trying to pass unjust judgment, but I honestly cannot understand why she did what she did. I cannot wrap my head around her actions. I'll never get answers because only she really knows what happened. And that's fine, but don't expect much compassion.

Steve
Steve

Why you are at it, let's blame the Jews for being in Germany in 1939, the little boys for trusting Jerry Sandusky, and the women for making themselves available to rapists.

4x4 Wheely
4x4 Wheely

What did Amy have in her system? Alcohol (illegal)? Cocaine (illegal)?  What? We don't know because she drove off after killing someone (illegal)?

Jill
Jill

How long have you known Amy? Since you seem to know how she feels.

Jill
Jill

Obviously Amy WAS blamed in this situation. She is being sentenced today.

Jill
Jill

I'm so glad that everyone has the answers to this tragic accident. Both sides have been represented equally in this story. If you do not know Amy Senser personally you have no right to put her down. It was an accident and the courts will take care of it. The death of Anousone is tragic but you must remember he ran out of gas (illegal), parked an got out of his car on an exit ramp (illegal), and he had cocaine in his system (illegal). I am not blaming this on Anousone but he did have a part in it. Amy Senser admitted she did hit him but said she did not know at the time. Noone knows for sure but God, Amy, and Anousone. Yes it is a tragedy for BOTH sides and BOTH sides will forever be changed. Have some compassion people please.

My Fair Kt
My Fair Kt

How DARE her friends try to pass the blame onto "the deceased." That is just sick and wrong, although I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the people defending her character are just as screwed up. 

Scared citizen
Scared citizen

IIs it too late to write a letter to the judge on behalf of the prosecutors and good people of this community?

Scott - St Paul
Scott - St Paul

Let'ask Anousone Phanthavong if Mrs. Senser is safe to be free in our community...oh wait - never mind. Well, I don't want to risk being ran over and left for dead by Amy. This is a matter of public safety, not punishment. Keep her securely away from me for as long as possible, please!

Gay Ted
Gay Ted

Denial,justification,deflection of responsibilty,avoidance,insincere remorse,elitism = Thats Amys world

Karen2
Karen2

Well next time, I hope Amy hits a little white blue-eyed darling child, maybe your child. Then we can finally hate her by your standards.

Shelly
Shelly

It is just like putting out a fire that keeps sputtering from bush to bush, isn't it Jill?  Kudos to you for having the energy to respond and show reason. Many people's level of disrespect and complete lack of compassion is deeply saddening and so disheartening.

Shelly
Shelly

 As Jill said above, that is such a disrespectful remark.  How completely insensitive and mean-spirited.

Jill
Jill

1. It is against the law to run out of gas. Look it up. As a driver you are responsible to keep your car running properly. There is a gas light for a reason. By the way checking your gas level doesn't cost a thing. Everyone can afford that. 2. People did speculate about Amy's drinking. The courts allowed evidence to be entered about her drinking yet they would not allow Anuosone's cocaine use to be entered. 3. Noone can say for sure what they would do in an that situation. I had a woman take out the whole side of my car and she didn't know she had hit me. My then boyfriend had to stop her to tell her what happened. 4.The Phanthavong family has forgiven her why  can't you feel a little compassion?

Cerebral Paulie LaGiglio
Cerebral Paulie LaGiglio

And the solution to not having a phone or AAA would probably be to turn your Hazard lights and waiting in the car until the police come along.

Cerebral Paulie LaGiglio
Cerebral Paulie LaGiglio

It is illegal to run out of gas due to safety reasons...not just for you, but everyone on the road. This is a fine example of that. I'm not defending one side or another, just pointing out why the law more than likely exists.

Jill
Jill

My whole life. So I just might know a little more than you on this situation.

Jill_Is_A_Retard
Jill_Is_A_Retard

 "Have some compassion" - Why are you coming onto a site to defend a woman who killed someone?  She is scum.  It doesn't matter how many letters people send in claiming she is a great person.  She killed someone and knew it for a long time, seeing her accident on TV for a long time, before deciding to turn herself in.  Does a good person know she committed a crime but not turn herself in for a long time?  You are truly sad.  I hope this woman gets tortured in prison.  She completely ruined another family's life and how dare you try to say the guy who got run over "played a part it in"  How dare you. 

Jill
Jill

I don't think people are trying to blame Anousone but he did play a part in what happened. It is sad and tragic yes but that's the truth.

pso1
pso1

Unfortunately the same thing could happen to you or anyone, and then... "what would you be singing"?

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