Defense seeks trial delay in fatal stabbing on campus

This combination of photos provided by the U.S. Army and the University of Maryland Police Department shows Richard Collins III, left, and Sean Urbanski. Urbanski is charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime in the May 2017 killing of 23-year-old Richard Collins III. Defense attorneys are asking for more time to prepare for Urbanski's trial, which is scheduled to start on July 22. (U.S. Army, University of Maryland Police Department via AP, File)

COLLEGE PARK — Defense attorneys are asking for more time to prepare for a trial of a white man charged with murder and a hate crime in a black student's fatal stabbing on the University of Maryland's campus.

Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill Jr. hasn't ruled on the defense request to postpone Sean Urbanski's trial, which is scheduled to start July 22.

Urbanski, 24, is charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime in the May 2017 killing of Richard Collins III, 23. Prosecutors recently notified defense lawyers that they intend to seek the maximum sentence for first-degree murder — life in prison without the possibility of parole — if Urbanski is convicted of that count.

Urbanski's attorneys said in a June 28 court filing that their expert in digital forensic examination needs more time to analyze material from Urbanski's cellphone.

County prosecutors are opposed to delaying the trial. They have said racist content found on Urbanski's cellphone points to a motive for the killing of Collins, a Bowie State University student who was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army shortly before his death.

In a separate filing, Collins' family also objected to a delay.

"The defense in this case have had almost two years to prepare for this case, unlike the prosecutorial team that came to the case in January," the filing dated Monday says.

On June 5, Hill ruled that at least six photographs of racist memes found on Urbanski's cellphone can be used as trial evidence. The judge also said jurors can see evidence that Urbanski liked a Facebook page called "Alt-Reich: Nation." Urbanski's lawyers argued the material is inflammatory, irrelevant and inadmissible, with no connection between the content and the killing.

The defense lawyers said prosecutors only recently provided them with a digital copy of Urbanski's cellphone and a new "expert disclosure" regarding the FBI's analysis of the phone. They said they would provide the material to their expert as quickly as possible.

"However, given the late production of this material, the defense expert will require additional time to analyze the materials," they wrote.

Prosecutors said the defense lawyers didn't ask for access to the cellphone until May 17, and they made it available to Urbanski's attorneys a week later.

"Everything that has been provided to the Defense has been provided in a timely manner," prosecutors wrote in a July 3 court filing.

An expert witness for the prosecution will testify that Urbanski had to upload the racist memes to a folder on his cellphone, so there was no way the photos could have wound up in the folder without his "purposeful actions," prosecutors wrote.

Urbanski is a former University of Maryland student. Collins was visiting friends at the University of Maryland's College Park campus when he was stabbed to death at a bus stop.

Authorities said Urbanski approached Collins and two of his friends near the bus stop about 3 a.m. Urbanski said, "Step left, step left if you know what's best for you," and Collins replied, "No," before Urbanski stabbed him once in the chest, according to charging documents.

Defense attorney William Brennan said witnesses told investigators Urbanski was extremely drunk and screaming incoherently when he approached the three friends. Prosecutors said Urbanski stabbed Collins because he was the only black person at the bus stop that night.

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