Lawyers for a man accused of murdering a black student want to keep the alleged killer’s Facebook activity out of court, arguing the posts are too “offensive” and “inflammatory.”
Before he allegedly stabbed and killed 23-year-old Richard Collins III on the University of Maryland campus last May, Sean Urbanski was part of the Facebook group “Alt-Reich: Nation.” The now-deleted group was a hotbed of anti-black memes. Urbanski, then 22, also wrote anti-Hispanic comments on the meme-sharing website 9gag and upvoted anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim pictures, The Daily Beast previously reported. Prosecutors are expected to use Urbanski’s internet and text history to accuse him of a hate crime.
But in a filing last week, Urbanski’s lawyers moved to exclude his posts from the court record, arguing that they would unfairly prejudice a jury against Urbanski.
“Leftists” are “murderers” who are “freely attacking our race in the media,” read one 9gag post Urbanski upvoted. But on May 20, Urbanski would be the one accused of murder. Early that morning, he allegedly approached Collins, who was waiting for an Uber with two friends on campus.
“Step left,” Urbanski ordered Collins, according to a police report. “Step left if you know what’s best for you.”
Collins, an ROTC student who had been commissioned for an Army officer role earlier that week and who would have graduated from Bowie State University the following week, did not move. Urbanski allegedly responded by unfolding a knife and stabbing Collins to death before fleeing the scene.
Urbanski was charged with murder shortly after the slaying, but only received an additional hate crime charge in October, after investigators completed an investigation of his phone and internet history.
“We are comfortable at this time that the motive in this case was race,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said in announcing the hate crime charge. “Lt. Collins was killed because of his race.”
Investigators have not disclosed what they found on Urbanski’s phone, but his lawyers indicated in their filing that prosecutors would likely introduce “certain cartoon images and a group message survey extracted from his cellular phone” as evidence, along with Urbanski’s activity in the Alt-Reich: Nation Facebook group. The lawyers want Urbanksi’s digital life to stay out of the courtroom.
“Those images, survey and Facebook page are particularly offensive, extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, irrelevant and not otherwise admissible,” they wrote in a filing to exclude to internet and phone evidence from the trial, which is slated to start in July. A lawyer for Urbanski did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
The Facebook page, which was deleted after Collins’ murder, hosted anti-black memes, screenshots released by BuzzFeed show. The exact contents of Urbanksi’s phone are unknown, although his lawyers’ filing suggests they might contain more racist material. Those materials are more shocking than Collins’ murder, his lawyers argue.
“There is genuine risk that the emotions of the jury concerning the cartoon images on the cellphone, the text message survey and the Facebook posting will be excited to irrational behavior concerning the alleged murder of Mr. Collins,” the filing reads. “The proffered evidence is more shocking than the underlying crime.”