Ex-girlfriend seeks to avoid testifying at hate crime trial

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UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (AP) — A California college student wants to be excused from testifying at the murder trial of an ex-boyfriend charged with a hate crime in a black student’s fatal stabbing on the University of Maryland’s campus.

Sean Urbanski’s former girlfriend, Kim Stringer, says he mistakenly believes she would testify that Urbanski, a 24-year-old white man, had no racial animus that would motivate him to commit a hate crime. Stringer doesn’t have any relevant testimony that would assist Urbanski’s defense, her attorney, Timothy Maloney, wrote in a court filing last week.

In June, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill Jr. ruled that racist memes found on Urbanski’s cellphone can be used as evidence at his trial over the May 2017 killing of 23-year-old Richard Collins III.

The judge didn’t immediately rule on Maloney’s request to quash a subpoena for Stringer to testify next month at Urbanski’s trial in Maryland. The subpoena creates a “great inconvenience” and “significant anxiety” for Stringer, a student at a college in Fresno, California, her lawyer said.

“The subpoena to the former girlfriend has been issued for the purpose of harassment, and not for any relevant purpose related to the upcoming trial,” Maloney wrote.

Urbanski’s attorneys didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment.

Urbanski is charged with first-degree murder and a hate crime in the killing of Collins, a Bowie State University student who was visiting friends at the University of Maryland's College Park campus when he was stabbed to death at a bus stop.

Urbanski's attorneys have argued it would deprive their client of a fair trial if jurors view evidence that he had at least six photographs of racist memes on his phone and that he liked a Facebook page called "Alt-Reich: Nation." The defense lawyers argued the material is inflammatory, irrelevant and inadmissible, with no connection between the content and the killing.

Prosecutors have said the racist content found on Urbanski's cellphone point to a motive for the killing, indicating he stabbed Collins because he was black. One of the racist memes found on Urbanski's phone "advocates violence against blacks," while another has an image of a noose, a handgun and poison, a prosecutor said.

The judge refused to exclude the evidence from a trial scheduled to start Dec. 9.

Urbanski is a former University of Maryland student. Collins was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army shortly before his death.

Urbanski approached Collins and two of his friends near a bus stop on the College Park campus about 3 a.m., authorities said. 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 has said witnesses told investigators that Urbanski was extremely drunk and screaming incoherently when he approached the three friends at the bus stop.

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