With a new academic year beginning, the sentencing hearing returned to the forefront a crime that brought tabloid headlines and much soul-searching to the university, an elite public college founded by Thomas Jefferson and a point of considerable pride in the state. Troubling details emerged of a culture of excessive drinking and casual hook-ups, and of Huguely's previous violent incidents, including one in which he beat a sleeping teammate after learning he had gone home with Love after a party.
Gavin Gill, who played lacrosse at St. Paul's in Brooklandville and then at U.Va., testified uncomfortably about the incident Thursday, put on the stand by Chapman to show that Huguely had a history of violence. At a party in the spring of 2009, Gill said, Love told him she and Huguely had broken up. They left the party and went to her apartment, where Gill said they had some "intimacies" before he returned to his own place. There, he awoke to Huguely punching him in the head and face, severely enough that the lacrosse team doctor thought he should have a CT scan.
Although the lacrosse coach, Dom Starsia, learned of the incident and met with the two players, Gill said, he assumed some of the blame because he sensed that the couple really hadn't broken up.
"I wanted to make it clear to our coach that I was in the wrong as well," Gill said. He said he and Huguely apologized to one another and were more concerned that the incident not affect the team.
The beating was among the "warning calls" that Chapman said should have been heeded. A woman also testified that Huguely grabbed her by the neck at a Charlottesville bar after she told her father, Huguely's lacrosse coach at his high school, the Landon School in Bethesda, that she was concerned about his excessive drinking.
After the hearing, Chapman appealed to college students "to recognize in their friends problem behaviors like over indulging in alcohol.
"Act," he said. "Act now."
During the hearing, Huguely's lawyers presented family members, friends and a Catholic priest who has been visiting him weekly during the past two years. To them, he was not a drunken, aggressive lacrosse player but someone who was happy, good-natured and always made time for his younger cousins, relatives in trouble and his grandparents. His friends and family also submitted letters on his behalf.
"As the eldest of the cousins, he always looked out for all of us, and has been especially protective of the girls," wrote Christina Taylor, a cousin. He even acted as a "mediator" in parent-child tiffs, she added.
Chapman said Huguely could still do good in prison, and upon release will still be relatively young. But he denied Love her chance to grow old, he noted.
Chapman said it was difficult to see all her former classmates returning to testify in the trial and realizing that Love would never move to New York or start careers the way they had. "That's what we're missing," he said of the loss of Love. "I know that she is a person of a background and level of achievement that she would have been successful at whatever she would have done."
Instead, he said, hers will be a posthumous contribution.
"It's so sad, but in death, she's making a contribution to understanding about domestic violence," he said. "And in death, she focused attention here on the issue of alcohol and domestic violence."