CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - George Huguely V, the former University of Virginia lacrosse player convicted of beating his ex-girlfriend to death in 2010, was sentenced Thursday to 23 years in prison for her murder.
Reporters swarmed the tiny courthouse in the heart of bucolic Charlottesville as Huguely's family packed the courtroom, with some testifying in hopes of getting the 24-year-old a shorter sentence than the 26 years recommended by a jury in February.
In the end, Huguely was sentenced to 23 years for second-degree murder and one year for grand larceny, with a three-year suspended sentence. He will be able to serve those sentences concurrently and will spend three years on probation after his release -- which, under Virginia law, will likely be about 20 years from now. In addition, Huguely won't be allowed to drink or possess alcohol during his probation.
The son of a wealthy Chevy Chase family and a Landon School graduate, Huguely was convicted in February in the beating death of 22-year-old Yeardley Love. Prosecutors said he broke down her locked door and viciously beat her to death following a daylong drinking binge; Huguely's defense team has argued that he was drunk and simply wanted to reconcile with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, never realizing she had grave injuries when he left her room after the fight.
Before the judge passed the sentence, former classmates of Huguely testified about incidents in which a drunk Huguely had behaved violently. A former teammate, Gavin Gill, testified that he awoke to find Huguely punching his head after Gill spent the night with Love.
But family members, friends and a Catholic priest said Huguely was an honest young man who got along well with others and only displayed anger toward himself.
"He was a really happy, good-natured, warm kid," said Maria Fisher, Huguely's aunt. She said she had heard of the incident involving Gill, but said "no one's perfect" and added she could "see why a young kid might do that," since Gill had been intimate with Love.
Outside the courthouse after his sentencing, Huguely's lawyers announced they plan to appeal both the conviction and the sentence. A motion for a retrial, alleging prosecutorial misconduct, failed earlier this month.
Love's mother and sister, Sharon and Lexie Love, said in a statement that they "find no joy in others' sorrow" and "are relieved to put this chapter behind us," thanking prosecutors and supporters for their help throughout the case.
Huguely's family said they were saddened by the sentencing and reiterated their support for him.