The defense team in the trial of a man who has been charged with a murder and hate crime has filed a motion to bar the testimony of an expert on white supremacy.
In May 2017, U.S. Army Lt. Richard Collins III, a Bowie State University student, was visiting his friends at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland. It was just a few days before his graduation and he had just recently received his commission as a U.S. Army second lieutenant.
Collins was stabbed to death at around 3:00 AM while he was waiting for an Uber at a bus stop with two of his friends. Surveillance video footage shows Sean Urbanski, who is white, stabbing Collins, who is black.
Urbanski was charged with first-degree murder and for a hate crime resulting in death. 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.
Following the stabbing, search warrants were executed for Urbanski’s phone, truck, apartment, and parents’ phone. An investigation by the FBI pulled together Urbanski’s online group chats, racist memes, and social media activity — including a now-deleted “Alt-Reich: Nation” Facebook Page.
While Urbanski’s defense team argued that the material was “extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, irrelevant, and not otherwise admissible,” Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill Jr. ruled that all of this evidence was admissible.
White Supremacy Expert
On November 13, 2019, Urbanski’s defense attorneys William Brennan and John McKenna filed a motion arguing that Prince George’s County prosecutors waited until 30 days before Urbanski’s December 9, 2019 trial to disclose they intend to call Jessie Daniels as an expert witness “to testify about the Alt-Reich, its history, origins, ideology and members.”
Daniels is a professor at The City University of New York. According to her biography, she “has spent the last 25 years calling attention to white supremacy.” She is currently working on a book, Tweetstorm: The Rise of the ‘Alt-Right’ and the Mainstreaming of White Nationalism.
Urbanski’s defense team argued that the state’s motion to include expert testimony was “inexcusably late” — given that this trial has already been postponed four times. The attorneys wrote, “The State has no justifiable reason for withholding this notice of intention to present expert testimony for more than two years.” They claim that they will be unable to properly prepare a defense or seek their own expert witness to rebut Daniels. They also noted that the state failed to provide any of Daniels’ findings, opinions and conclusions, leaving them unable to prepare for her testimony.
They wrote, “The State’s proposed expert testimony does little more than dress up a lay, albeit highly qualified, witness as a so-called ‘expert’ in order to call the Defendant a racist.”
Judge Hill has yet to rule on this motion.
Urbanski’s trial is set to begin on December 9, 2019 and is scheduled to take ten days.