Attorneys for the man charged with murder and a hate crime in the fatal stabbing of a black student visiting the University of Maryland last year have asked a judge to bar evidence linking him to a now-deleted Facebook page called “Alt-Reich: Nation.”
Sean Urbanski’s attorneys are arguing that the content from the Facebook page, along with other “particularly offensive” evidence discovered — including a group message with survey questions on his phone and cartoon images — is “not relevant” and not connected to the killing of Richard Collins III.
In a motion filed in Prince George’s County Court, William C. Brennan Jr. and John M. McKenna wrote that they believe “the state intends to offer the images, the survey and the Facebook page into evidence at the trial of this case. Those images, survey and Facebook page are particularly offensive, extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, irrelevant and not otherwise admissible.”
Collins was visiting friends May 20 at U-Md. in College Park when Urbanski is alleged to have stabbed him in what police call a “totally unprovoked” attack.
Collins and two friends were waiting for an Uber ride at a bus stop around 3 a.m. when Urbanski, now 23, approached and said, “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you,” according to police charging papers.
Collins would not move, police said. Urbanski then stabbed Collins with a folding knife before fleeing the scene, police said.
Collins, 23, had just been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and was days away from graduating from Bowie State University when he was killed.
John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, declined to comment on the defense motion until a hearing set for Thursday in which a judge will consider it.
The evidence Urbanski’s lawyers seek to bar from trial would appear to have a key role in whether prosecutors can prove to a jury that Collins’s slaying was racially motivated.
When announcing the hate crime charge against Urbanski in October, Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said a review of Urbanski’s phone and social media activity led investigators to conclude that Urbanski, who is white, attacked Collins because of Collins’s race.
Urbanski’s attorneys said, “There is absolutely no temporal nexus between the proffered evidence and the killing of Mr. Richard Collins on May 20, 2017.”
Urbanski’s lawyers, who at previous hearings said drugs and alcohol may have played a role in the case, also argued Friday that the evidence they seek to bar would mislead the jury and confuse the issues.
“There is a genuine risk that the emotions of the jury concerning the cartoon images on the cell phone, the text message survey and the Facebook posting will be excited to irrational behavior concerning the alleged murder of Mr. Collins,” Urbanski’s attorneys said in the motion. “The proffered evidence is more shocking than the underlying crime.”
Urbanski’s lawyers asked that if the judge rules the evidence can be used, that there be separate trials for the murder and hate crime charges.
A trial has been scheduled for July.