Daughter of ex-intelligence official sentenced to 35 years for 2020 murder

The daughter of a former director of national intelligence has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for fatally stabbing her longtime friend in 2020.

In January, 29-year-old Sophia Negroponte was found guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of 24-year-old Yousuf Rasmussen, of Bethesda.

Prosecutors said Negroponte — the daughter of John Negroponte, the first director of national intelligence and a former United Nations ambassador during the George W. Bush administration — stabbed Rasmussen to death during an alcoholic rage after a night of heavy drinking.

Sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of between 15 and 25 years, but Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann sentenced Negroponte to 35 years, calling her a “struggling, anger-filled alcoholic” who lacked empathy after the killing.

Yousuf Rasmussen (Courtesy Montgomery County)

The judge, who also said he found Negroponte dishonest in her testimony during her trial late last year, also cited the need for community protection, deterrence and rehabilitation in handing down the sentence.

Prosecutors with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office had sought the maximum sentence of 40 years.

Negroponte took the stand in her own defense during her trial, and her attorneys sought to show she was too intoxicated to intend to kill Rasmussen.

Prosecutors, however, showed hours of video footage showing how she continued to function after the slaying.

The jury deliberated for about 16 hours before finding her guilty.

In the courtroom on Friday, Robert Hill, a prosecutor with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, told the judge Negroponte was “a powder keg ready to go off” and has “shown no remorse” for her actions.”

During the sentencing hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Friday, nearly a dozen people gave victim impact statements, describing the impact of the loss of Rasmussen on their lives.

In her victim impact statement, Rasmussen’s mother, Dr. Zeba Rasmussen, remembered her son as charismatic and kind, with a “huge caring heart for everybody.”

His father, Steve Rasmussen, said his son was a “gift to us,” and said family and friends will always wonder what they lost with Rasmussen’s killing.

In a brief statement to the judge before receiving her sentence, Negroponte she was “ashamed” and “truly sorry.”

Negroponte and Rasmussen were longtime friends, with Negroponte even describing Rasmussen as her best friend in interviews with police. On the night she killed Rasmussen on Feb. 13, 2020, the two had been drinking margaritas at an apartment in Rockville, along with another friend.

Negroponte and Rasmussen bickered and argued that night and, at one point, even mock-wrestled, according to a witness. At some point, Rasmussen decided he was going to leave. When he came back to get his cellphone, prosecutors said Negroponte grabbed a kitchen knife from a drawer and stabbed him multiple times.

When police got to the house, officers found Negroponte lying on top of Rasmussen’s body, yelling, “I’m sorry,” according to charging documents.

Outside the courtroom Friday, Steve Rasmussen thanked police, first responders and prosecutors for their work. Noting the number of people who gave victim impact statements, he said, “What I would like to say most is that we came here because of Yusuf. We came here because we care about him … because we were all affected in some way by him and his life.”

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy acknowledged the “sad and ironic twists” in the case.

“The sentence was appropriate,” he said. “[Negroponte] had tremendous representation from defense attorneys. They bought every doctor they could, and she was still convicted. She had a fair trial. She was not entitled to have more than that.”

Negroponte, who has been behind bars for the past three years, will get credit for time served.

WTOP’s John Domen contributed to this report.

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Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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