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Daughter Of Former Nat’l Intelligence Director Found Guilty Of Friend's Fatal Stabbing
Prosecutors say Sophia Negroponte stabbed recent college graduate Yousuf Rasmussen after consuming a significant amount of alcohol at an Airbnb. One of the injuries was "a death blow that severed his jugular."
The daughter of a prominent politician is facing 40 years in prison after being found guilty of a man’s fatal stabbing.
Sophia Negroponte, 29, was found guilty of second-degree murder for the 2020 homicide of Yousuf Rasmussen, 24, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said in a live press conference Tuesday. Authorities say Negroponte stabbed Rasmussen — a male friend she’d allegedly known since high school — after a night of drinking in the Washington D.C. suburb of Rockville, Maryland.
The conviction comes after Montgomery County jurors deliberated for 16 hours at the end of what McCarthy called an “especially long trial” that began on Dec. 6, noting the breaks for the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.
The victim’s mother, Dr. Zeba Rasmussen, spoke to reporters in front of the Montgomery County Circuit Court following the guilty verdict.
“Yousuf was a kind and gentle soul, a loving person who brought our family and his many friends great joy in his 24 years of life,” said Dr. Rasmussen. “We will carry him with us forever.”
On Feb. 13, 2020, at around 11:15 p.m., officers with the Rockville City Police Department responded to the West Montgomery Avenue residence after reports of a stabbing, according to police. State’s Attorney McCarthy said the address was a carriage house behind a primary home, which Negroponte had rented through Airbnb.
“On this particular evening, they agreed to join together in her new location at the Airbnb, only a few blocks from where we are,” McCarthy said at the courthouse. “There was alcohol that was consumed. Substantial amounts of alcohol. That was a large part of this trial.”
McCarthy stated a third friend and eyewitness who joined the pair in the evening was vital in understanding what happened. According to the witness, Negroponte and Rasmussen had two altercations throughout the evening, after which Rasmussen left the rental.
When realizing he’d forgotten his cell phone, Rasmussen returned, prompting the defendant to grab a kitchen knife before she “stabbed him multiple times,” according to McCarthy. One of the wounds, McCarthy said, was “a death blow that severed his jugular.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Donna Fenton detailed the attack in her closing arguments, according to the Associated Press.
“Her hand was on that knife when it was plunged into his face, and cut across his throat, and plunged into his neck, where blood came down and he collapsed almost immediately,” Fenton stated.
When officers arrived at the residence, they found Negroponte cradling Rasmussen, pressing a towel onto the victim’s neck, according to the Associated Press. Police body-cam footage of the scene was presented to jurors.
“Yousuf, breathe,” Negroponte could be heard telling Rasmussen. “I’m so sorry.”
When handing down the verdict Tuesday, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrance McGann said Rasmussen was “taken from this earth at a very young age with his whole life in front of him in such a horrific way,” according to the Associated Press.
McCarthy told reporters Rasmussen had just graduated college two months before the violent attack and was “making his way in his life,” adding he was “not a big guy.”
Negroponte’s defense and family argued the defendant — who was initially charged with first-degree murder — was too intoxicated to have intent, which would have merited the more severe charges.
Her adopted father, John Negroponte — whom former U.S. President George W. Bush appointed in 2005 as the country’s first Director of National Intelligence — was one of several people who wanted to take Negroponte’s alleged alcoholism into consideration, according to the Associated Press.
“Neither the persecutors nor perhaps the jury took into sufficient consideration the complexities and mitigating circumstances of the case — Sophia’s past trauma and other factors that led to a very troubled existence,” said Mr. Negroponte following the verdict. “She’s had severe alcohol use disorder.”
John Negroponte and his wife, Diana, adopted Negroponte from Honduras after the diplomat served time there as an ambassador.
Following Tuesday’s verdict, Mr. Negroponte said he and his family were “very disappointed” with the decision, adding, “The jury obviously made their decision.”
Mr. Negroponte said an appeal is possible.
According to State’s Attorney McCarthy, Negroponte remained free on bond for the duration of the case — largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic — but was taken into custody following the verdict after bond was revoked.
Her sentencing is scheduled for March 31.