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Amy Senser, followed by her husband Joe Senser, in January.

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

Feb. 25: Lawyer: No dependency treatment for Amy Senser

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS
  • Star Tribune
  • February 25, 2012 - 7:50 AM

Documents filed Friday in Amy Senser's hit-and-run case show that she never received chemical dependency treatment at a Florida facility as prosecutors had suggested last week, but instead provided doctors there with blood samples as part of a basic wellness check.

In the affidavit, Senser's attorney, Eric Nelson, called the Hennepin County attorney's request for her medical records "inappropriate and volatile." With it, he submitted an eight-page record of her 2010 blood test results and a letter from the medical director of Florida Detox & Wellness Institute indicating that Amy Senser was never treated there.

Instead, Nelson said, Senser and the rest of the family sent blood samples to the facility for basic screening. A signed affidavit by Amy Senser said she provided a doctor with the blood samples "for the purposes of determining the levels of toxins in my system." The samples revealed that she was pre-menopausal.

Last week, Assistant County Attorney Deborah Russell filed a one-page motion requesting that Judge Daniel Mabley review Senser's medical and chemical dependency treatment records from the past three years, and records from Florida Detox, to determine whether they contained evidence. The motion claimed that an unnamed witness may have treated Senser, 45, in the days following the Aug. 23 death of Anousone Phanthavong, 38, on an Interstate 94 exit ramp. However, that motion said the witness would not release any information to prosecutors without a court order.

In a one-sentence letter filed as an exhibit Friday, that witness, Florida Detox Medical Director Dr. Marvin Sponaugle, wrote that Senser was never treated there for drug or alcohol dependency.

Nelson contends Senser did not know she hit a person when she struck Phanthavong at the Riverside Avenue exit as he was filling his car with gas. Phanthavong was a chef at the nearby True Thai restaurant.

After he filed his response Friday, Nelson called prosecutors' motion "extremely offensive" because it was not true and forced Amy Senser to reveal personal medical information under intense media scrutiny. Senser is scheduled to stand trial April 23 on two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide.

"It was absolutely infuriating, not only to me but also to my client, her husband and her family," he said. "It puts them under this tremendous public ire and people have this impression that she went to go get treatment and obviously it's not true."

Nelson said that Amy Sener has never set foot in the Florida facility, and only sent her blood test results there for evaluation because of her family's connection with the institute. Her husband, ex-Minnesota Vikings player Joe Senser, works with the facility, which treats NFL players in need of substance abuse treatment.

Nelson provided the records following a seven-page response in which he blasted the state's request, as not only in violation of patient confidentiality laws, but also as having a chilling effect on legal and privacy protections for those who do attempt to seek chemical dependency treatment.

"I think all Minnesotans should be offended by the state's motion," he said Friday. "It essentially asks the court to put a police officer in the confessional booth."

Hennepin County attorney's office spokesman Chuck Laszewski declined to comment on Nelson's response. Nelson said he will abide by the prosecution's request that he provide Amy Senser's medical records to the judge to prove she has been treated for migraines. The defense claims she was suffering from them when she got lost and struck Phanthavong while en route to pick up her daughter and a friend from a concert at Xcel Energy Center.

On Friday, Nelson also filed another brief in response to the state opposing his motion to dismiss the case against Senser for lack of probable cause. Nelson maintains his client's actions that night were those of someone who didn't know she had struck a person. Prosecutors contend that Senser's actions -- including moving the vehicle into the garage the next morning, refusing to give a statement when state troopers arrived to take custody of the vehicle and waiting to come forward as the driver -- also constitute circumstantial evidence that points toward guilt.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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