The man charged in the killing of a black student on the University of Maryland campus last year has asked a judge to exclude evidence tying him to a Facebook page called “Alt-Reich: Nation.”
Sean Urbanski, 23, faces first-degree murder and hate crime charges in the death of Bowie State student Richard Collins III, who was visiting College Park last May when police say Urbanski fatally stabbed him.
The evidence under consideration appears to be central to the question of whether Collins’ killing was racially motivated. After the May 20 incident, it quickly emerged that Urbanski, who is white, belonged to a now-deleted Facebook group where members would share racist memes.
Collins, who was black, was waiting for an Uber at a campus bus stop around 3 a.m. when Urbanski approached him and his friends. Charging documents state that a seemingly intoxicated Urbanski told them, “Step left, step left if you know what's best for you.” After Collins refused, the documents state, Urbanski stabbed him in the chest.
Collins was just days away from graduation when he died, and had been recently commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks originally said her office didn’t have sufficient evidence to pursue hate crime charges, but after reviewing more materials from Urbanski’s phone and computer, she reversed her decision in October.
In announcing the hate crime charge, Alsobrooks said she believed Collins was killed because of his race. She cited “lots and lots of digital evidence.”
Urbanski’s lawyers say they expect the state to try and introduce content from the white supremacist Facebook page — along with some cartoon images and a group message survey — as evidence during the trial. But they’re asking a judge to ban it, arguing that it’s not connected to the crime and would confuse the jury.
“Those images, survey and Facebook page are particularly offensive, extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, irrelevant and not otherwise admissible,” lawyers William C. Brennan, Jr. and John M. McKenna wrote in a motion filed Friday in Prince George’s County Court.
“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,” the lawyers wrote. “The proffered evidence is more shocking than the underlying crime.”
John Erzen, a spokesman for the state’s attorney, declined to comment on the motion but said his office will make their arguments at an upcoming hearing.
A trial is scheduled for July.