Nobody wins

One college student is dead.

Another could be going away for a long, long time.

George Huguely was painted as a drunk, overprivileged athlete whose heinous transgression came in the heat of passion – in legalese, that’s voluntary manslaughter.

But Wednesday night, Huguely was convicted by a jury in Charlottesville, Va., of second-degree murder and grand larceny. His sentence for the 2010 killing of Yeardley Love has not yet been determined, but after 7 p.m. Wednesday night, Love’s mother and sister spoke as sentencing witnesses in court.



Huguely’s father, according to several media reports, was not in court on Wednesday. During sentencing, nobody testified on Huguely’s behalf.

***

When I learned of the verdict, I didn’t shout or leap in the air … or even celebrate in any way. What is there to celebrate? It was a sad moment. Not even bittersweet. Learning the verdict against Huguely left me with a strange, empty feeling.

Because Love’s death could have been prevented.

Because Huguely’s behavior and his actions could have been stopped.

Because there’s another man out there who abused a woman to the point of death, and his actions and her death won’t receive as much attention.

Who wins? What did anybody win?

Yeardley Love is dead.

George Huguely will go to prison. Legally, he has been branded as a murderer.

Really. Who wins?

***

If someone finds anything from this, I hope it is the girl who wants to walk away from her abusive boyfriend. She will.

Or the lacrosse/baseball/football players who know their teammate has a problem, but has to find a way to confront them. They will.

Or the kids in high school who are targeted and picked on by the “cool kids” for being different – because at my high school, George Huguely would have been one of the “cool kids.” They have the power to stand up for themselves and to be compassionate towards others. They will.

I hope Yeardley Love’s family and friends can find some closure in this. And, more importantly, I hope they can find some kind of peace in this judgment.

What’s become of the George Huguelys from high school?

If you’re reading this for some reason, you’re probably wondering why I have such a fixation on the George Huguely V case. Because it’s about more than an alleged murder. It’s about class, privilege, wealth, entitlement and all the things that go with it.

In each of my three years in high school (our school was 10th, 11th and 12th grade), I knew at least three dozen George Huguelys.

From the Washington Post, May 23, 2010:

Huguely was a child of divorce but knew few other deprivations. He spent some of his teenage years in a million-dollar yellow brick home on a 1.5-acre corner lot in Potomac, where a boar’s head hung over the fireplace … 

The family invested in racehorses and a 1,000-unit apartment complex. Some family members had lifetime memberships at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase and the Annapolis and Corinthian yacht clubs. … 

Huguely hosted friends at his family’s five-bedroom beach house on North Carolina’s Outer Banks and on his father’s 40-foot yacht, the Reel Deal. The elder Huguely often took lacrosse players on fishing trips and was a regular presence in Charlottesville and at team parties.

“I view them in the same way,” one former player said. “Mr. Huguely was the same as George.”

And from Washingtonian Magazine, June 1, 2011:

Huguely excelled on the athletic field. He was quarterback on the football team and started his senior year. But the most exalted game at the sports-focused school is lacrosse. Huguely became a star, which ensured him a place at the top of the teenage social order and potentially an invitation to play lacrosse at a top college.

“The kids on the lacrosse team drove big SUVs, they hung out together on weekends, they drank a lot,” says a Landon graduate who didn’t play lacrosse but was part of the crowd. “They got the girls.”

“He was a pretty playful kid,” says a lacrosse teammate. “He was not a great student, but he didn’t care. He was more interested in having fun.”

Says another classmate who played basketball with him: “George had the wealth and entitlement, he was an elite athlete, and he could party hard. You could also see there was a temper there.

Each class at my high school had at least a dozen George Huguelys, Of each group of George Huguelys each year, I’d venture to say that approximately two of them were decent people.  But for some reason, those two guys still went with the flow. I even asked one of them years later, “You were such a good guy. Why did you hang around with such jackasses?”

Looking back, I feel sorry for those two guys from each group. They had a choice.

***

I wonder what kind of adults the George Huguelys from my high school have become. Are they respected in their communities and among their peers? Are they leaders? Are they good husbands and parents? Do they have an independent sense of compassion for others?

I’ve found that a few of them have matured and become good people and caring parents. A few of them, I consider them friends.

We had our reunion not too long ago, and the organizers created a Facebook page where we could write notes on the virtual wall to each other, about the reunion and how to help with planning. One of our very own George Huguelys left two notes:

The first, regarding a reunion we did not have:

The reunion that we had was awesome for 10 year. Wasn’t that great! (sarcasm). How about everyone bothering our class president (**** ****) to get something going?

The second, mocking someone who couldn’t make it to the reunion:

Oh, good, I’ll bet ***** ******* can plan it just so he can see all of his friends again.

Another, from one of the other George Huguelys:

HOWEVER…. Flying back east from March 4th – March 10th for da “unofficial” 10 year College reunion & 15 year High School Homecoming Shenanagins Celebration….. gonna be hitting up ALL of ye old stompin’ grounds in MD>DC>VA…. it’d be super-fun if we could get a bunch of the local kids out for a “Pre-Reunion Happy Hour” !??!?!? = )

Feel free to hit me up if yer around & down for shotgunnin’ some Natty BoH’s !!!!!!!!

Some things don’t change, do they?

This is too many

Here’s some food for thought: some information on domestic violence among teenagers and college students that I found while combing through today’s coverage of the George Huguely V trial:

  • About one in three high school students have been or will be involved in an abusive relationship.
  • Forty percent of teenage girls ages 14 to 17 say they know someone their age that has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.
  • In one study, from 30 to 50 percent of female high school students reported having already experienced teen dating violence.
  • Teen dating violence most often takes place in the home of one of the partners.
  • In 1995, 7 percent of all murder victims were young women who were killed by their boyfriends.
  • One in five or 20 percent of dating couples report some type of violence in their relationship.
  • One of five college females will experience some form of dating violence.
  • A survey of 500 young women, ages 15 to 24, found that 60 percent were currently involved in an ongoing abusive relationship and all participants had experienced violence in a dating relationship.
  • It is estimated that between 20% to 52% of high school and college age dating couples have engaged in physical abuse.

(source: Bureau of Justice Special Report: Intimate Partner Violence, May 2000)

These numbers confound me and overwhelm me. And they sadden me. This is too many …

George Huguely V is being tried for first-degree murder in the death of Yeardley Love, and the trial is raising questions and, more importantly, dialogue regarding domestic violence among high school and college-aged students. It’s something that doesn’t seem to come up, or if it does, it’s an awkward dialogue. And any situation involving domestic violence begs the question: “Is it possible to ask for help?”

Lea Calvani, who works at a Charlottesville, Va., help center and shelter for victims of domestic violence, told a Virginia television station this:

“Statistically it takes a woman 7 and a half to 12 times to leave her partner before she leaves for good. I think that one as a general community, I think we always have kind of the assumption well she should just leave the relationship and unfortunately it’s really not that simple.”

If you’re a victim, are you trapped? No. Absolutely not. Even if you’ve dismissed your boyfriend or girlfriend’s physical threats or you’ve found a way to justify the abuse, there’s a means to breaking the cycle.

But what do you do if you witness it? Do you take it seriously if your friend’s boyfriend hits her? Or if your best friend’s girlfriend sends him a text message threatening to kill him? Do you attempt to run interference? Do you take a picture or shoot video with your cell phone camera for proof? Do you forward that text to someone else? Do you call the police?

Do you – gasp! – cause a scene?

At the risk of patronization … maybe you should. Because there’s no reason to continue to enable that kind of behavior and to condone the attitude that this is all OK. Because it’s not.

Frankly, if this would have happened to a girl I went to high school or college with – or to a boy – I hope to a higher power that one of them would have had the courage to tell the world.

Or did they ever?

Also at fault …

As the trial of George Huguely V ends its first week, I don’t know what makes me angrier. The fact that Huguely beat the crap out of Yeardley Love, or the fact that so many people saw this coming and didn’t go out of their way to prevent an attack and her subsequent death.

To the women who read Huguely’s email to Love, the message that stated that he should have killed her, you are culpable. You pushed aside a threat when you could have aided a teammate and a friend.

To the men who said they would stage an intervention, in light of Huguely’s excessive drinking, you’re in contempt, too. Too little, too late.

Courtroom sketch from the George Huguely V trial, via the Washington Post

Somehow, the behavior was condoned …

via the Washington Post

Being a defense attorney has to be one of the most morally challenging occupations. Chances are, you’re dealing with a person who is guilty of a crime. Your role, somehow, is to either play the devil’s advocate or craft a strong enough defense that somehow lessens the severity of the crime your client has committed … or somehow justifies the crime your client has committed.

If you’re George Huguely, your team of attorneys has gone public with its defense in the Yeardley Love murder case.  Huguely, a former University of Virginia lacrosse player, is accused of killing his former girlfriend in May of 2010. The trial began Monday with jury selection in Charlottesville, Va.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Huguely’s lawyers are expected to argue that Love was taking prescription medication and drinking the night she died, which may have contributed to her death. Huguely has admitted to police that he fought with Love that night, shaking her repeatedly so that her head hit a wall, but he denies killing her.

“It is undisputed that a man hurt a woman. It is undisputed, that is fact,” Rhonda Quagliana, one of Huguely’s lawyers, said during jury questioning. She also said the “cause of death is a contested issue in this case.”

A former college classmate told me that the defense’s job is to find enough doubt in the prosecution’s case.

But the case of George Huguely and the murder of Yeardley Love – academic and athletic products of private schools, part of a close-knit athletic community both at the University of Virginia and in the enclave of lacrosse – expose something deeper: another angle of the underbelly of upper-middle class suburbia.

I know why this resonates with me. Because I knew many teenagers like Huguely and Love – pretty, privileged, popular, athletic, always seemingly surrounded by their “best friends” and their “fellas” and the members of their “clan.” There was a certain sense of elitism that surrounded this small caste, and after the details of the George Huguely case emerged, I wondered something: how did the boys in this artificially powerful caste treat these girls? And how did the girls treat the boys? And how did they collectively treat each other? Did they – with the exception of a few individuals – treat each other how they treated their seemingly lesser classmates?

But the case also hit me in another way: We approach the 20-year anniversary of the murder of one of our classmates.

Yes, 20 years ago this month, the former quarterback at my high school killed another classmate over a girl.

People don’t believe me when I tell the story. The quarterback drove a Corvette, had the cutest girlfriends and was the centerpiece of the best parties … and he killed another guy over a girl. As the months went by, following his arrest, more of us found out from each other about his behavior, both prior to the murder and growing up with us. We witnessed some pretty misogynistic behavior from a teenager yet somehow we socially condoned it. But – and this has been asked in the case of Huguely and Love – how could this all have been stopped?

The case was barely a whisper at the most recent reunion – probably because we were all having such a good time, we didn’t stop to recall the controversy and the tragedy. But in 1992, the case polarized our school. It still polarizes us. Our former classmate pled guilty to first-degree murder and is still incarcerated. Each time he asks for parole, he is met by a group of former classmates who voice their disgust and outrage that, years later, he still asks for a chance at life “on the outside.” At the same time, he has a group of friends who attend each court hearing in his support … and a handful of them who still contend that somehow, the murder was justified.

But what justifies one person taking another human’s life? Better yet, what justifies our decision to condone it? Or to turn the other cheek and condone the actions that lead to such a tragedy?

***

I’m going to add a note to this: if you or anybody you know is a victim of domestic violence, you have the power to do something about the situation. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), an organization that will help you or direct you to resources that will help you.

If you’re a teenager or a college student and know someone in this situation, take your concerns to someone you trust: a teacher, a parent, a coach, a school administrator. In the wake of Yeardley Love’s death, I urged my friends and family who were parents, teachers and coaches to reach out to their children, students and athletes and discuss the topic of domestic violence and the social issues that teenagers may confront.