While Minnesota judges typically follow sentencing guidelines, they can choose to impose lighter or harsher sentences if they find extenuating or aggravating conditions. In Minnesota, convicts with good behavior generally get released after serving about two-thirds of their sentences.
"She is not the type of person who would knowingly leave a man on the road to die," Nelson said.
But the county's top prosecutor, Mike Freeman, said justice has been done.
"I think if you're driving a car and you have an accident, the state Legislature and all the rest of us believe you have a duty to stop. That clearly is something that Mrs. Senser did not do," Freeman said. "And you have a duty to report that accident."
The case was one of Minnesota's most closely watched criminal trials in years, with overtones of celebrity, privilege and cover-up. Joe Senser was a tight end for the Vikings in the early 1980s and has remained visible as a game commentator and as owner of a group of sports bar-restaurants that has shrunk from four to two since the accident, for what have been termed financial reasons.
Jim Ballentine, an attorney for Phanthavong's relatives in a civil case, who were a constant presence in the courtroom, learned something important from this case:
"That the ground in front of the door to the Minnesota criminal justice system is level. And for obvious reasons that has been a concern for my clients from Day One. All that they've wanted in this criminal proceeding was for justice to be served. And they're thankful that that was accomplished in the jury verdict."
Senser settled the civil case on Friday, a law firm for the Phanthavongs announced. Terms weren't disclosed.