Uncertainty, trial delays pain parents of U.Md. murder, hate victim

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — For the parents of newly commissioned U.S. Army Lieutenant Richard Collins III, the pain hasn’t stopped since he was stabbed to death May 20, 2017, while visiting University of Maryland — and the possibility of more delays makes matters worse.

“The trial date is a day of both dread, and a hope for resolution,” wrote Pauline Mandel, of the Maryland Crime Victim’s Resource Center, on behalf of Richard and Dawn Collins, the victim’s parents.

Even before Prince George’s County prosecutors filed a motion last week, seeking a delay in the scheduled Jan. 14 trial of Sean Urbanski, the lawyer representing Collins family has said they have been and will be hurt by trial delays.

“The family of the victim has been and continues to be severely impacted by this crime,” wrote Mandel in a November motion opposing a defense request to have Urbanski face two trials; one for first-degree murder, and one for a hate crime that resulted in death.

“Their life and ability to function is compromised daily by the continuing effects of this (crime), Mandel wrote, calling the suggestion of two trials “unthinkable.”

“The idea of a family having to endure the court process for two crimes, arising out of the same actions, committed at the same day, same time, by the same defendant is in direct opposition (to state guidelines regarding rights of victim’s families),” wrote Mandel.

Last week, prosecutors asked the judge to delay a Dec. 17 motions hearing and Urbanski’s Jan. 14 trial date, because of the departure of Joseph Ruddy, who has led the prosecution since the date of the murder.

Prince George’s County judge Lawrence Hill has not ruled on whether he will grant the request to delay the trial.

In addition, Hill has yet to hear arguments on the Collins parents’ motion, as well as several defense motions.

One defense motion seeks to dismiss the hate crime on the basis of the First Amendment. Another requests the judge sever the hate crime from the murder count.

Earlier, Hill postponed hearings whether racist cartoons and posts in a now-deleted white supremacist Facebook group can be used in the prosecution of Urbanski.

Urbanski’s co-counsel William Brennan has argued the postings “are particularly offensive, extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, irrelevant and not otherwise admissible.”

Then-Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, who has been replaced by newly elected Aisha Braveboy, countered that the evidence “tends to prove a material fact, that is, that the defendant purposefully chose to stab Mr. Collins, over anyone else at the bus stop that night, because Mr. Collins is an African American.”

Collins, a Bowie State University student was killed days before his graduation, had been recently commissioned as a U.S. Army second lieutenant, was killed as he and two friends waited for an Uber at a bus stop at 3 a.m.

Sources have told WTOP surveillance video captured the killing. In addition, Urbanski’s blood alcohol content showed he was legally drunk.

Urbanski’s lawyers, Prince George’s County and federal prosecutors, as well as the FBI, have all declined to say whether a determination has been made about whether federal hate charges will be filed. In certain cases, federal hate crimes could make a defendant eligible for capital punishment.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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