On the 14th of January 2021, Prince George’s County Circuit Court in Maryland (US) sentenced Sean C. Urbanski to life in prison with the possibility of parole for the murder of 2Lt. Richard Collins III. The long-awaited case finally comes to an end after four years of delay.
On the 20th of May 2017, at approximately 3 am, Richard Collins III (a black man) and two of his friends (a white man and an Asian woman) waited for an Uber to pick them up from the University of Maryland’s, College Park adjacent to the University of Maryland’s Montgomery Hall. Sometime later, Sean Urbanski (a white man) came out of the nearby woods and started screaming at the trio, saying “Step left! Step left if you know what’s good for you!” Richard, who happened to be a Second Lieutenant (posthumously promoted to the first lieutenant by the Department of Defense) in the U.S. Army, refused to comply with Urbanski’s command. Urbanski lashed out at Richard, eventually stabbing him to death – Richard died from the stabbing wounds sustained while fighting with Sean. Urbanski was arrested by the police shortly after the attack. Although the trial against Urbanski was scheduled to begin in January 2018, Urbanski’s legal team pushed the trial to January 2019 through tactical delays. Another delay stemmed with the State Prosecutors on the grounds of personnel turn over to the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office. The final delay was contributed by an inquiry into hate crime allegations and pushed it to December 2019.
The Trial and Prince George’s County Circuit Court’s Final Verdict
Eventually, Urbanski’s trial began in late December 2019. Originally, the trial was concerned with establishing an offence of hate crime against Urbanski. However, the State Prosecutors failed to establish “sufficient evidence” to deem the murder as one associated with a hate crime. Moreover, the court also held that the prosecution failed to meet the legal burden as outlined in the state statute, which at the time was narrowly defined and rarely applied in criminal court cases (amendments were quickly proposed to the legislation by state senators after the offence for hate crime failed on the grounds of being “narrowly defined”). This, Associate Judge Lawrence Hill concluded, only meant that the prosecution’s investigation for the offence of hate crime was merely a “speculation”. Additionally, Judge Lawrence added, that he had gone through dozens of letters and victim statements from both parties of the case. In his conclusion, he stated that he felt dropping the charge for hate crime due to a lack of sufficient evidence was “just and fair”. Hence, he dismissed any further inquiry into it.
Despite the dismissal of the hate crime charge, prosecutors and Richard’s family insisted that the murder was motivated by hate and racism. Surveillance video clearly showed that Urbanski had, in his apparently calm demeanour stabbed Richards. Following a two-hour jury deliberation, the jurors found Urbanski guilty of first-degree murder. Although the sentencing was scheduled for April 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately pushed back the final sentencing order in January 2021. The court finally sentenced Urbanski to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
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