Prosecutors contend in new documents filed Friday in Amy Senser's hit-and-run case that she may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs when she struck and killed a Roseville man last August, then possibly sought chemical dependency treatment afterward.
A one-page motion claims that an unnamed witness may have treated Senser after she struck and killed chef Anousone Phanthavong, 38, on an Interstate-94 exit ramp Aug. 23. However, the motion says the witness will not release any information to prosecutors without a court order.
The motion asks that Senser be ordered to produce any medical and chemical dependency treatment records from the past three years, as well as any records from Florida Detox Inc. in Palm Harbor. It asks Judge Daniel Mabley to review the records to determine whether they contain evidence.
Senser's attorney, Eric Nelson, called the motion "merely a veiled attempt to influence potential jurors" in her April 23 trial. She's charged with two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide. "The government continues to pander to the media, fueling pure speculation about Ms. Senser having been impaired at the time of the accident," he said in a statement. "These allegations are currently being made in the guise of a court motion and are contrary to the state's own evidence at this very point."
According to a criminal complaint, Senser's husband, ex-Minnesota Vikings star Joe Senser, called the Florida rehab facility the morning after the crash. Nelson contends that Joe Senser is on the board of directors there and was simply conducting business.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Deborah Russell filed the motion in conjunction with a brief opposing a defense motion to dismiss the charges against her for lack of evidence. Nelson contends that prosecution evidence does not prove Senser knew she hit a person when she struck Phanthavong as he was filling his stalled car with gas on the I-94 exit ramp at Riverside Avenue.
The prosecution document also claims that potentially crucial text messages were deleted from Amy Senser's phone and that actions after the crash, including moving her bloodied sport-utility vehicle from the driveway to the garage, are part of the circumstantial evidence sufficient to present the case to a jury.
The motion also asks for medical records, citing Nelson's claims that Senser had a migraine headache at or before the time of the crash, when she allegedly became lost while en route to pick up her daughter and a friend from a concert at the Xcel Energy Center. Prosecutors seek to debunk that claim because they contend Senser's text messages to her daughter were inconsistent with her whereabouts at the time.
Nelson says Senser left the concert early because of a migraine, but then took the Riverside exit to turn around when she changed her mind and decided to pick up the girls. Russell's brief said Senser never texted her daughter that she was leaving the concert, or her change in plans to return and pick up the girls. Joe Senser eventually picked them up.
According to the charges, a friend of Senser's daughter later told investigators that Joe Senser told his wife over the phone to "just go home" and that when they arrived home, she was sleeping on the couch and "may have been drinking."
Nelson contends the fact that Senser was sleeping on the couch with the vehicle in the driveway lends credence to the fact that she didn't know she had struck someone.
Russell countered that the evidence indicates she more likely "was under the influence of alcohol and/or controlled substance and fled the scene so as not to be caught."
In the brief, the state claims 40 text messages exchanged between Amy Senser and two unnamed witnesses the day after the crash were deleted. Six texts received from Joe Senser and an unidentified witness between 8:28 and 10:25 p.m. the night of the crash also were deleted.
The brief lists an unnamed witness who recalled a telephone conversation he had with Joe Senser the morning after the crash in which Joe Senser said he and his wife learned on the news about a hit-and-run fatality at the same place where Amy Senser said she had hit something. The two then allegedly went out to the SUV she was driving and saw blood on it. Nelson directed investigators to the vehicle at the Sensers' Edina home the day after the accident, although she didn't come forward as the driver until several days later.
The state also opposes an affidavit by Senser that states, in part, that she had "absolutely no idea that (she) had hit a person" and "if (she) would have known, she would have stopped and called police," and other claims. Russell's memo contends 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 is also circumstantial evidence that points toward guilt.
Russell did not dispute a claim in Nelson's motion that Phanthavong had cocaine in his system at the time of the crash, suggesting that he could have been acting erratically. However, she blasted it as "misleading and entirely irrelevant to her defense that she did not know she hit a person." She contended that if Phanthavong were acting erratically, it would be more likely for Senser to spot him on the exit ramp.
Nelson, who has until next Friday to reply to the state's memo, said he also will respond to the motion requesting medical records. Both sides are due back in court March 9.
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921