Federal charge uncertain, U Md. murder, hate case delayed

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — The former University of Maryland student charged with fatally stabbing a black student visiting the College Park campus has been granted a 6 month delay in his trial, as federal prosecutors weigh whether to add federal hate charges.

The  Prince George’s County trial of Sean Urbanski, 23, was scheduled to begin next week, for the May 20, 2017 murder of Richard Collins III, a Bowie State University student who had been recently commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and was set to graduate days later.

Urbanski’s attorneys, William Brennan and John McKenna requested the delay.

“The defense requests a continuance based on the voluminous amount of discovery and the need for further defense investigation based on discovery thus far received. It should be noted that additional discovery from the State will be forthcoming,” wrote Brennan and McKenna, in the motion to postpone the trial.

The judge granted the defense motion, ordering the 10-day trial to begin Jan. 14, 2019.

Urbanski is currently charged with Maryland state crimes of first-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life with no chance of parole, and hate crime resulting in death, which can bring a sentence of 20 years.

Federal hate crimes involving murder can make a defendant eligible for capital punishment. The FBI’s Baltimore office has been providing assistance, in determining whether sufficient evidence exists for federal hate counts.

Urbanski’s attorneys, federal prosecutors, and the FBI declined to comment on whether a determination has been made on whether federal hate charges will be filed.

Before trial, a Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge will decide whether information found on Urbanski’s phone, as well as social media activity can be used in trial.

In May, prosecutors said racist postings found on Urbanski’s phone, and his membership in the Alt-Reich: Nation Facebook group are “relative and probative” in proving he fatally stabbed Collins.

Prince George’s County prosecutors have not provided specifics of evidence they say would prove Urbanski is a white supremacist.

In the May motion, State’s Attorney Gloria Alsobrooks said digital data “elucidates a statement uttered by the defendant just before he stabbed Mr. Collins.”

Urbanski’s lawyers said cartoons and a group message survey found on Urbanski’s phone were “particularly offensive, extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, (and) irrelevant,” and shouldn’t be allowed at trial.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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