Injustice Anywhere

In the final chapter of Unwritten Truce, Remaining Challenges, I briefly discuss the murder of Army Second Lieutenant Richard Collins III. Collins was stabbed to death in the early hours of Sunday morning, May 20, 2017. Richard Urbanski, a 24 year old University of Maryland student and an apparent white nationalist allegedly stabbed Collins to death for failing to vacate the side walk. Collins, a recent Army ROTC Commissionee, and two friends were departing the University of Maryland when Urbanski approached the group saying, “Step left, step left. If you know what’s good for you, you will step left.” According to police charging documents, Collins wouldn’t move, Urbanski pulled a knife and stabbed Collins, killing him. Police said the attack was unprovoked and that the two men did not know each other. The stabbing was caught on a surveillance camera.

After some investigating authorities discovered that Urbanski belonged to a right-wing group on Facebook called Alt-Reich: Nation, that shared hateful imagery. Brennan and McKenna have argued in earlier motions that the judge should bar prosecutors from introducing “certain cartoon images and a group message survey extracted from his cellular phone,” as well as discussions on his now deleted “Alt-Reich: Nation” Facebook page. In another motion filed in October to dismiss the Maryland hate crime charges, Brennan and McKenna stated the postings “are particularly offensive, extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, irrelevant and not otherwise admissible. The proffered evidence is more shocking than the underlying crime,” the defense argued.

WTOP FM Radio Station 103.5, Chevy Chase, Maryland, reported on Monday March 25, 2019 that the FBI decided not pursue federal hate crime charges against Richard Urbanski. Dave Fitz, a spokesman for the Maryland Regional FBI Office in Baltimore, said he could not comment on the matter other than to say that, “From the beginning, we were asked to provide technical assistance to our law enforcement partners, and we’ve provided that assistance.” The U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland declined to comment. Urbanski was charged with first-degree murder and committing a hate crime resulting in death. The state of Maryland has hate crime laws on the books and will pursue hate crime charges at the state level in addition to murder charges against Urbanski. In their motion, Brennan and McKenna write under Maryland’s hate crime statute “only speech actually connected to the offense should be used as evidence of motivation.” “Generalized evidence concerning the defendant’s racial views is not sufficient to meet this test,” according to the defense. Lawyers for Urbanski have been seeking two separate trials for their client — one trial for first-degree murder, which in Maryland carries a top sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole, and one trial for the hate crime, which carries a maximum of 20 years behind bars.

Former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks countered motion by arguing the evidence “tends to prove a material fact, that is, that the Defendant purposefully chose to stab Mr. Collins, over anyone else at the bus stop that night, because Mr. Collins is an African American.” For a first-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must prove premeditation, but not motive. However, jurors may consider motive in determining guilt or innocence, or choosing between first-and second-degree murder. “Motive is an essential element that the State must prove in order to secure a conviction under the hate crime statute,” Alsobrooks wrote. Judge Lawrence Hill Jr. scheduled a motion hearing for the case May 30, and the trial for July 22-29. Collins, was days away from his college graduation from Bowie State University at the time of his murder.

The head-scratching decision of the FBI is consistent with an earlier decision by the FBI not to prefer Federal Hate Crime Charges against Jeremy Christian. You may recall Christian made national headlines when he allegedly killed Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best aboard a Portland Oregon MAX Train. Several witnesses stated Christian stabbed both men in the neck as well as a third passenger, Micah Fletcher. Fletcher survived his wounds Namakai-Meche, Best, and Fletcher were protecting two teenaged girls, one who is Muslim was dressed in a hijab, and the other was a sixteen-year-old black girl. Witnesses report Christian was berating the two girls with anti-Muslim and racist language when the three men came to their defense, forming a wall between Christian and the girls. The attack occurred just six days after Collins’ slaying, and was captured on surveillance camera. President Trump’s only response to the incident was a tweet issued three days after the Portland attack. President Trump tweeted, “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”

Zainab Chaudry, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the post was, “definitely a positive development,” but added on Skype later that, “It’s really not enough.” President Trump did not direct the Department of Justice to look into any of the killings as has been the precedent of previous Commander’s in Chief to use every available federal asset to investigate and prosecute heinous crimes of national notoriety perpetrated against U.S. Citizens in a protected status. J.F.K did it in 1963 when he federalized the Alabama National Guard so that black students admitted to the University of Alabama could gain entrance to the University. Dwight Eisenhower did it in 1953 when he sent the 101st Air Borne to Little Rock, Arkansas to allow black school children to integrate Arkansas schools safely when segregationist attempted to block their entrance to Arkansas’ Central High School. George H.W. Bush directed to the DOJ to investigate the beating of Rodney King Jr. in 1991, which led to Civil Rights convections of four L.A. Policemen. President Clinton directed the DOJ to investigate the death of James Byrd in 1998 when Byrd was chained to a truck and dragged to death. Clinton’s efforts resulted in death sentences for two of the three convicted defendants, Russell Brewer and John William King. Brewer was executed in Texas on September 21, 2011. King remains on death row. Berry was sentenced to life in prison.

Harry S. Truman directed the DOJ to investigate the blinding of Sergeant Isaac Woodard in 1946 and on July 25, 1946, he directed the DOJ to investigate the quadruple murder of four black sharecroppers by a racist mob in Monroe, GA. George Dorsey his pregnant wife Mae and, their neighbors, Roger and Dorothy Malcolm were tortured and lynched in an extra-judicial quadruple murder. George was a returning U.S. Army World War II Veteran. Truman was so incensed by the senseless violence being perpetrated against Black Americans that he appointed a Presidential Commission to study the problem of unequal protection under the law. Truman adopted 10 of the commission’s findings, one of which was the desegregation of the U.S. armed forces. In 2019 under represented communities are less safe than they have been in recent memory. FBI statistics reveal a 17% increase in hate crimes for 2017. The U.S. cannot point out human rights violations abroad, while ignoring human rights violations at home. It’s time for the Trump Administration to stop protecting the sensibilities of some Americans and start protecting the lives of all Americans.

Troy Mosley, author of Unwritten Truce: the Armed Forces and American Social Justice