Aug. 30, 2012 -- A Virginia judge today sentenced convicted University of Virginia murderer George Huguely V to 23 years in prison for the beating death of his ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love.
He will serve 23 years, plus one concurrent year for the grand larceny conviction, ruled Judge Edward Hogshire of Charlottesville Circuit Court. He also ordered three years of probation after the 23
Huguely, 24, was convicted of second-degree murder on Feb. 22 for the beating death of Love in 2010.
Before the judge's ruling, Huguely briefly addressed the court.
"To the Loves, I'm sorry for your loss. I hope that you are able to find peace. To my family and friends, thank you for your love and support," Huguely said through tears.
The Love family sat somberly with their heads down as the sentence was announced and left the courtroom soon after. The Huguely family remained stoic through the judge's decision.
Huguely's attorneys told reporters outside the court that they plan on appealing both the conviction and the sentence.
"Our client, Mr. Huguely, remains optimistic," the attorneys said.
In a statment, the Huguely family wrote, "Today is a sad day for our family. The past twenty-eight months have been the most difficult in our lives. We love George and will always support him."
They maintained that Love's death was "an accident with a tragic outcome," and said that, "Yeardley will always be in our hearts."
Love's mother and sister, Sharon and Lexie Love, also released a statement in which they thanked prosecutor David Chapman and everyone who helped them through the past two years.
"We find no joy in others' sorrow. We plan to work diligently through the One Love Foundation to try and prevent this from happening to another family," they wrote. "We are relieved to put this chapter behind us. Again, we would like to thank everyone for showing us such kindness during the most difficult time of our lives."
Huguely's attorneys asked a Virginia judge today to consider reducing the former University of Virginia athlete's sentence to 14 years in prison, from the 26 years recommended by a jury. The judge cut the recommended sentence by three years.
The prosecution and defense both called multiple witnesses to the stand for the sentencing, including former classmates, Huguely's aunt and a priest.
Rev. Joseph Scordo said he has visited Huguely in jail every Monday for a half-an-hour for the past two years.
Scordo described Huguely as "spiritual" and said the two spoke freely about "faith, prayer, life, religion, family, UVA, sports."
Scordo said he has never asked Huguely about the night of Love's death, but that Huguely frequently says, "I want the truth. I want the truth to come out. I have a lot of hope in Him, in God."
The prosecution's witnesses painted Huguely as a violent young man who struggled with his temper and alcohol.
Huguely's former lacrosse teammate Gavin Gill told the court that he vividly remembered waking up to Huguely on top of him in bed, beating him up after he had left a party the previous night with Love.
The jury recommended 25 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction and one year for a grand larceny conviction resulting from an allegation that Huguely stole Love's laptop computer.
Huguely's defense attorneys wrote that sentencing guidelines for convictions of second-degree murder and grand larceny "considering Mr. Huguely's negligible criminal record" recommend a sentence of 14 to 23 years.
"Beyond the obviously tragic outcome, there are no facts in this case sufficiently aggravating to warrant a sentence above the low end of the guidelines or a sentence inconsistent with those imposed across the Commonwealth for like offenses," the defense wrote.
Court documents filed on Wednesday by Huguely's defense team include numerous personal accounts from family and friends praising Huguely and asking for leniency
"We love Georgie deeply and we will stand by him forever," Huguely's mother Marta Murphy wrote. "Our tight knit family and close group of friends will offer him a strong and supportive network when he is released...Please have mercy and and be lenient and compassionate on my beautiful son."
Murphy also wrote about Love's death.
"I don't have enough words to express my deep sorrow for the loss of Yeardley's life," she said. "We got to know her and love her as any parent gets to know their child's girlfriend. She was a part of our lives."
Huguely's younger sister Teran called her brother a "smart, spiritual, generous and loving older sibling that I am happy to call my brother."
Huguely killed Love, 22, in a drunken rage in May 2010 just weeks before she was to graduate from the University of Virginia. Both Huguely and Love were star lacrosse players on the university's elite teams.
Huguely faced six charges, including first-degree murder, in Love's death.
Over 10 days in court, jurors listened to testimony from nearly 60 witnesses and saw a video of Huguely's police statement, graphic photos of Love's battered body, and read text and email correspondence between the two.
Though charged with first-degree murder, the judge gave jurors a menu of lesser charges they could from: second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense denied that Huguely was in Love's room the night of her death and was involved in an altercation with her. They differed on the severity of the encounter and whether Huguely was directly and intentionally responsible for Love's death.
Over the course of the trial, prosecutors painted a portrait of Huguely as a violent and enraged man who savagely beat Love in her bedroom and left her there to die. Prosecutors claimed that Love died from blunt force trauma to the head.
The defense depicted Huguely as a troubled young man whose problems with alcohol spiraled out of control. They described Huguely and Love's relationship as mutually tempestuous, with both of them jilting and betraying each other. They maintained that Huguely went to Love's bedroom with the intention to talk to her and that, while things got heated and he pushed her around a bit, he did not do anything severe enough to kill her.
During deliberations, jurors had the option of looking at evidence from the trial again, including Huguely's video-taped statement to the police hours after Love's death. Huguely said he and Love had wrestled on the floor, but that he never struck her.
Before finding out Love was dead, Huguely told police in his video-taped statement that when he went to see his former girlfriend the night of her death he told her to "chill out" and "shook her a little."
"We were just going to talk," Huguely told the officer in the video. "It was not at all a good conversation."