Editor’s Note: This story was a part of our print edition for Dec. 19. The trial is ongoing, and as news breaks, we will provide updates as we receive them.
SEABROOK – After the first two days of testimony in the murder trial of U.S Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, the prosecution rested their case on Dec. 17 after arguing that former University of Maryland student Sean Urbanski was an angry, racist man who consumed a lot of hate speech.
However, after denying a request to drop a hate crime charge, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill announced on Dec. 17 that prosecutors did not provide enough evidence to show that Urbanski, who is white, killed Collins because he was Black.
Urbanski was indicted on first-degree murder and a hate crime charge in 2017 following an incident near a University of Maryland, College Park bus stop.
As Collins and two friends waited for a ride-share pickup, Urbanski allegedly approached him and screamed “step left. Step left if you know what’s best for you.”
After Collins refused, Urbanski stabbed him in the chest. He was pronounced dead when he arrived in the hospital. Urbanski was found to have an alcohol concentration of .10, more than the .08 legal limit in the state.
The trial, which started almost two-and-a-half years after the killing of the former Bowie State University student, began on Dec. 11 with prosecutors showing a video of the stabbing which showed with Collins’ hands still in his pockets. In the video, prosecutors point to the video showing Urbanski talking to someone before leaving, then coming back to the scene holding a pocket knife.
Assistant State’s Attorney Jason Abbott claimed that between the time of Urbanski’s departure from the scene to turning to encounter Collins with a weapon shows enough evidence for premeditated murder. Along with the fact that Urbanski was drunk, “he was pouring gasoline on a fire.”
The defense claimed in their opening statements that Urbanski was drunk and upset his friends were graduating from school. In response to all the racist images found on his phone that was being used as evidence, the defense claimed that not all the images have a racist connotation with attorney William Brennan arguing that it was a “tragedy” that the prosecution would use race as part of their argument against his client.
“The idea that Richard Collins was targeted is pure, unadulterated speculation,” Brennan said.
On the second day, Abbott showed multiple racist images and memes against African Americans found on Urbanski’s phone as part of his indictment. Images included graphic depictions of African Americans as investigators also found out that he was also a part of a Facebook group called “Alt Reich Nation.”
Before the prosecution rested, Blake Bender and Amanda Lee, two former Maryland students, who were near the bus stop during the incident, were called to the stand. Bender said that Collins refused to move out of the way after being told to do so three times. Urbanski made eye contact with Bender before starting to stab Collins, he said.
The defense attempted to drop the charges, stating that the state did not provide that each count is justified. However, Judge Lawrence Hill rejected the request.
If Urbanski is convicted for murder, he could spend up to life in prison with no possibility of parole. In March, the FBI stated that there was not enough evidence to charge Urbanski with a federal hate crime.
Before the trial began, the Collins’ family released a statement saying that they are glad the trial can begin.
“The delays, in this case, have prolonged our pain and anguish over his senseless murder,” they said. “Nothing will bring our son back, but we’re glad that the trial is finally starting and hope the criminal justice system will provide a measure of closure by bringing to justice the man responsible for Richard’s death to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Bowie State University community is keeping an eye on the case with President Aminta H. Breaux attending the second day of the trial. Senior communications major Seth Chisolm Jr. recalls how “delicate” the campus was to hate crime conversations on the case along with charged discussions on race following the election of President Donald Trump.
“My campus as a whole – with us being an HBCU – we took a strong impact to that because we (felt as if) there was no point of him to get injured or harmed or murdered in that incident because he wasn’t causing anyone any problems, to be honest,” Chisolm said.
Second-year graduate student Rafael Metcalfe said that he had classes with Collins and remembered the former lieutenant as someone who wouldn’t harm anybody. If Urbanski is convicted, Metcalfe said he hopes receives the largest punishment possible.
“You got a lot of people to distort the truth, whether it’s a lawyer or people choosing sides for race, or for the fact that it was drinking involved,” Metcalfe said. “But as far as my opinion, I think it’s a hate crime regardless. Like, he’s (Urbanski) White, he’s (Collins) Black. It’s as simple as that.”
Reporter Demetrius Dillard contributed to this report.