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Huguely on trial

How the University community has responded since the death of Yeardley Love

For the past 11 months, George Huguely has awaited trial at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. He has spent his time there in protective custody, isolated from the general inmate population, because of the high-profile nature of his case.

Huguely's fate has remained in limbo because his case has stalled in the courts, which repeatedly have delayed his preliminary hearing at the request of attorneys on both sides of the case, who have needed more time to review evidence and prepare for trial. Initially scheduled for last June, that hearing is now set to take place next Monday at 1 p.m., when a judge will determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to proceed with charges against Huguely. A trial is likely to follow soon after the hearing, and should Huguely be convicted on all charges, he may face life in prison.

Police initially arrested Huguely May 3 of last year after discovering Yeardley Love, Huguely's former girlfriend, dead in her 14th Street apartment. Love, like Huguely, was a fourth-year College student and Virginia lacrosse player, who intended to graduate May 23 - just 20 days after her death. Police responded to a 911 call in the early morning May 3 initially believing Love was suffering from alcohol poisoning. But when police arrived, they found her "face down in a pool of blood," according to an affidavit, and a state medical examiner later determined Love had died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Huguely waived his Miranda rights and spoke with police officers after his arrest. He told them he went to Love's apartment the night she died, kicked open the locked door to her bedroom, and "shook" Love, allowing her head to "repeatedly hit the wall," the affidavit stated.

Huguely's defense attorney, Francis Lawrence, called Love's death "an accident with a tragic outcome" in a statement to reporters shortly after Huguely's arrest. He did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment for this story.

When Huguely eventually does appear for trial, a jury will examine the facts of the case - many of which have not yet come to light - and will determine whether Huguely is ultimately responsible for a crime that rattled the University community and led it to take a closer look at how it can aid victims of violence and domestic abuse.

A violent past\nAs details of Huguely's past surfaced in the days after Love's death, a portrait of a man with a penchant for violence quickly came into focus. The Washington Post reported that in November 2008, Huguely was charged with resisting arrest, public swearing and public intoxication after a scuffle with a female police officer. The officer said Huguely told her, "I'll kill you. I'll kill all of y'all. I'm not going to jail," and also allegedly used racial and sexual epithets, along with "other vulgar terms." Huguely pleaded guilty to the charges and received a 60-day suspended sentence, six months' probation and a fine.

In 2009, Huguely attacked a sleeping teammate, the Post reported, because Huguely had heard that the teammate had kissed Love. And two months prior to Love's death, the Post also reported, lacrosse players from Virginia and the University of North Carolina had to separate Love and Huguely at a party in Charlottesville. An eyewitness, according to the Post, said "Huguely jumped on Love and began to choke her." No charges were filed as a result of the incident.

Huguely told police that his relationship with Love had ended prior to the night he entered her apartment, according to an affidavit. Claire Kaplan, director of sexual and domestic violence services at the Women's Center, said many times when a male partner attacks a female partner, he does so because his relationship with her has ended and he feels he has lost control.

"The most lethal time for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she talks about leaving or takes action to leave," Kaplan said.

It remains unclear whether the fact that the two recently had broken up motivated Huguely to enter her apartment that night. The only facts which have been released to the public are those contained in the affidavits released last year.

But upon leaving Love's apartment, Huguely took Love's laptop and told police later that the two had been emailing one another prior to that night. Police have taken possession of the laptop as well as notes found in Love's apartment, and have passed all evidence on to the commonwealth attorney, said Lt. Gary Pleasants, a spokesperson for the Charlottesville Police Department.

Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman has declined to comment on the case while it remains open.

Protecting the community\nAfter details of Huguely's 2008 arrest came to light, University officials, including former president John T. Casteen III, expressed dismay that Huguely was allowed to attend the University even after such a jarring incident. Had the University known of Huguely's 2008 arrest, he could have faced charges before the University Judiciary Committee, which could then expel him or suspend him. But reporting arrests to the University was and continues to be entirely self-enforced, and Huguely never turned himself in, officials said.

Casteen, in a press conference May 7, expressed frustration that police jurisdictions did not notify universities of students' arrests.

"Strikes me as odd," Casteen said in a press conference May 7, "that the law does not require that kind of notification."

He and other University officials worked quickly to make changes to the rules, but a system which would notify the University about students' arrests would require the approval of the General Assembly. Furthermore, such a law only would require jurisdictions in Virginia to report arrests; the Virginia legislature cannot compel jurisdictions in other states to notify the University regarding arrests of its students.

The University instead opted to take a more active approach to enforcing the existing rule, and required students upon arriving to Grounds in August to report any arrests when logging into NetBadge for the first time. If students lie about their record or fail to notify the University, they could face charges before the Honor Committee.

In February, the University learned that football player Devin Wallace had failed to report a September arrest for underage purchase and possession of alcohol near James Madison University.

Wallace pleaded guilty in absentia to the charge. Officials learned of the incident, though, only after the media reported that Wallace was arrested for assault, battery and burglary stemming from an altercation at JMU in February. After the second incident, University spokesperson Carol Wood said Wallace's case could be referred to the Honor Committee or the University Judiciary Committee for investigation and further action.

The Virginia legislature also has taken strides in adapting laws after the death of Yeardley Love. Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, sponsored a bill Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law March 24 that broadened Virginia's protective order statute - an initiative that had long been pushed by domestic violence groups.

"We determined that we wanted to make it easier for those in dating relationships and others, like those fearing workplace violence, to obtain protective orders," Bell said after the bill passed the House in February. "If the law passes, any person who is subject to an act or threat which places her in reasonable apprehension of bodily injury will be able to obtain a protective order."

This new legal measure, which takes effect in July, was well-received by domestic violence groups at the University. Kaplan, the official from the Women's Center, said the protective order law provides an effective recourse in abuse cases, particularly those which involve stalking.

"The legislation around that issue has been introduced several times over the last several years," Kaplan said. "But Yeardley's death made people realize that this is a very serious and potentially lethal problem."

Turning on bystanders\nWhile state and University officials have responded to the death of Yeardley Love by changing rules and policies, student leaders and University officials have taken steps to compel students and faculty to intervene should they feel a member of the community is in danger.

University President Teresa A. Sullivan, shortly after taking the reins from Casteen in August, helped lead the University's "Day of Dialogue," during which students and faculty met to discuss ways to combat violence, bias and prejudice in the University community.

Student leaders also met last summer at the Leadership 2K conference, an annual gathering of the heads of major student groups at the University. Fourth-year Commerce student Sharon Zanti, one of the attendees of the gathering, said students there discussed Love's death and attempted to pinpoint the kinds of services student leaders could provide that would prevent a future tragedy.

"We talked about 'what are some of the underlying causes?' and we came up with a number of different things that may or may not have contributed to some of the tragedies over our time here," Zanti said. "And bystander behavior was one of the biggest things that we thought was a factor as well as something that we thought will be something we can actually educate people about."

Athletic Director Craig Littlepage, in a press conference four days after Love's death, addressed reports that Huguely's teammates never sought outside help despite reportedly witnessing Huguely's string of violent acts