Maryland court upholds murder conviction in 2017 stabbing of Black student

The man sentenced to life in prison for the 2017 stabbing of Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III on the campus of University of Maryland in College Park will stay in prison.

Sean Urbanski’s first-degree murder conviction was upheld by Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals, in an opinion issued Wednesday.

Urbanski, a former University of Maryland student, was sentenced to life in prison last year after he was found guilty of stabbing Collins who was visiting friends in College Park, days before Collins was set to graduate from Bowie State University in 2017.

Urbanski, 26, was initially also charged with a state hate crime. However, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill threw out the hate count, ruling prosecutors had failed to show Urbanski, who is white, stabbed Collins specifically because Collins was Black.

In its appeal to Maryland’s second-highest court, Urbanski’s attorneys argued the trial judge should not have allowed jurors to consider racist memes and ties to a white nationalist Facebook group found on Urbanski’s phone, because there was no connection between the racially offensive material on the phone and the murder.

However, the appeals panel ruled the trial judge appropriately allowed jurors to consider the material found on Urbanski’s phone.

“The memes were not just racially offensive. In addition to being racist, the memes encouraged and promoted violence against Black people,” wrote the justices. “Memes depicting violence against Black people constituted relevant evidence that was probative of [Urbanski’s] intent to violently harm Lt. Collins.”

In March 2020, the Maryland General Assembly passed the 2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins III Law, strengthening Maryland’s existing hate crime statutes.

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.

Ciara Wells

Ciara Wells is a freelance digital writer/editor at WTOP. She is a recent graduate of American University where she studied journalism and Spanish. Before joining WTOP, she was the opinion team editor at a student publication and a content specialist at an HBCU in Detroit.

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