Murder, hate trial delayed: Evidence includes video of U.Md. stabbing, jail calls, chats

July 11, 2019

WTOP/Neal Augenstein

A Maryland judge has delayed — for the fourth time — the murder and hate crime trial against Sean Urbanski, who is charged in the death of U.S. Army Lt. Richard Collins III. Collins was fatally stabbed on the College Park campus of the University of Maryland in May 2017.

Court records show Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill Jr. granted a defense request for a delay on Thursday, to allow additional investigation into prosecution evidence.

The 10-day trial, which was scheduled to begin July 22, is now set to begin Dec. 9.

WTOP has learned prosecutors have turned over to the defense surveillance video showing Urbanski, who is white, stabbing Collins, who is black. In addition, prosecutors have gathered 911 calls from eyewitnesses, recorded jail calls while Urbanski was behind bars, and online group chats, as well as racist memes a judge has ruled will be admissible in trial.

Collins, a Bowie State University student, had been visiting friends at the College Park campus when he was killed May 20, 2017. It was just days before his graduation, and he had been recently commissioned as a U.S. Army second lieutenant.

Collins was stabbed at 3 a.m. while he and two friends waited for an Uber at a bus stop.

Jurors will likely hear a 911 call from the Uber driver who arrived on campus to pick up Collins.

Surveillance video from several businesses along Route 1 — including Target, Terrapin’s Turf, Nando’s PeriPeri, Cornerstone Grill & Loft and RJ Bentley’s Restaurant, as well as a 7-Eleven on Knox Road — were used to trace Urbanski’s and Collins’ movements before the stabbing.

More than a dozen of Urbanski’s phone calls from jail, as well as corresponding logs, were provided to the defense. It’s unclear whether Urbanski incriminated himself in the calls.

Prosecutors have the FBI report, which pulled together online group chats that Urbanski was involved in, as well as racist memes recovered from his iPhone. In June, the judge ruled that jurors will be able to view the material.

Prosecutors said their FBI expert will testify Urbanski had to “manually move” the racist memes found on his phone, and that “images do not automatically populate into the images folder on the iPhone.” In addition, the expert will testify to the date Urbanski last accessed or edited the images.

Evidence turned over to the defense includes Urbanski’s social media activity, including on Twitter and Facebook, as well as in the now-deleted “Alt-Reich: Nation” Facebook page.

The defense argument that the material was “extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, irrelevant, and not otherwise admissible” was rejected by Hill.

Videos of more than a dozen interviews with former University of Maryland students, including classmates of Urbanski’s, were turned over by prosecutors.

Search warrants were executed for Urbanski’s phone, his truck, his apartment and his parents’ home in Severna Park, Maryland.

Urbanski’s attorneys, William Brennan and John McKenna, did not immediately return WTOP requests for comment on the delay, or the prosecution’s evidence. The defense sought the additional time for their expert’s digital forensic examination of Urbanski’s phone.

Prince George’s County prosecutors Jonathon Church and Jason Abbott objected to the delay, as did Collins’ family.

In 2018, the Collins family’s representative said the family “has been and continues to be severely impacted by this crime.” Prosecutors had no comment on the judge’s ruling.

If convicted, Urbanski would face up to life in prison with no chance of parole for first-degree murder and 20 years for the state hate crime resulting in death charge. In March, WTOP reported the FBI did not find enough evidence to suggest filing a federal hate crime charge, which in some cases makes a defendant eligible for execution.

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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