03:33 - Source: HLN
Lacrosse player found guilty of murder

Story highlights

A judge also sentences George Huguely to three years' probation

A jury convicted Huguely in the death of his ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love

A panel recommended he be sentenced to 26 years in prison

CNN —  

A former University of Virginia lacrosse player convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Thursday, according to the Commonwealth Attorney’s office in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In February, a Charlottesville jury found George Huguely, 24, guilty of second-degree murder and grand larceny in the May 2010 death of Yeardley Love.

Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire sentenced Huguely to 23 years for murder and to one year, concurrent with that sentence, for the larceny charge. He also sentenced Huguely to three years of supervised release.

The judge’s decision was slightly less than the recommendation of the jury, which had suggested the defendant be sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Virginia does not have parole. Huguely may earn time for good behavior during his incarceration, but the maximum credit he can receive is 15%. In other words, he must serve at least 85% of his sentence, or roughly 19½ years.

“We love George and will always support him,” Huguely’s family said in a statement soon after sentencing. “We hope and pray that the passage of time will bring some semblance of peace and healing to each and everyone who has been affected by this tragedy, most especially the Love family.”

The case captured national attention with a spotlight shown on the volatile relationship of star athletes Huguely and 22-year-old Love, who both played lacrosse for the university’s nationally-ranked teams.

The jury did not agree with the prosecution that Huguely was guilty of first-degree murder, and it acquitted him on several other charges, including robbery, and breaking and entering to commit larceny.

Huguely has never denied he was in Love’s apartment nor that they had a fight.

At the center of the case were dueling portraits of Huguely, who prosecutors contend killed Love in a jealous rage while the defense argued the death was accidental.

Prosecutors claimed Huguely followed through with a threat to kill Love after accusing her of allegedly having a liaison with a lacrosse player from a competing university.

“I should have killed you,” he wrote in an e-mail to Love, which was read during the trial.

But the defense argued that Huguely contributed to her death but had no intention of killing her.

Lawrence described his client as “stupid, drunk – but not calculating.”

Police were initially called to Love’s off-campus Charlottesville apartment by a roommate who reported a possible alcohol overdose, authorities said at the time.

A medical examiner found Love died of blunt force trauma to the head.

The prosecution told jurors that Love’s death was slow and painful, claiming she could have remained alive for a couple of hours after Huguely left her apartment.

Inside an emotionally-charged courtroom, Huguely hung his head and appeared to cry during his attorney’s plea during the sentencing phase that directly followed the jury’s verdict.

“George’s decision and judgment were clouded by drinking, immaturity,” attorney Rhonda Quagliana told the jurors.

“It’s not an excuse. It’s not a justification. It’s just a fact … (at the time) George is a 22-year-old immersed in sex and alcohol.”

In Session’s Jessica Thill, Michael Christian, Jean Casarez and Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.