Two McDaniel College students who were involved in a campus brawl with racial overtones asked a Carroll County Circuit Court judge yesterday for separate trials, with one student saying that the inflammatory nature of the slurs that precipitated the event would reflect unfairly on him.
Defense attorney Paul Kemp told Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. that there was no evidence that his client, Thomas E. "Scoots" Crowell, 24, of Brinklow in Montgomery County, uttered any racially charged epithets against two students who were assaulted on the McDaniel campus after exiting a chartered bus early Nov. 6.
Crowell, who is white, was named in charging documents as one of several men who attacked Stuart Johnson and Daniel Silva, African-American sophomores at the college.
Nicholaos G. Alevrogiannis, a fifth-year student and a former stand-out football player at McDaniel, is accused of using racial slurs during a confrontation leading to a fight that left Johnson with a broken finger and 40 stitches to close a wound to his jaw and neck, according to court documents. Silva received minor injuries, documents showed.
Represented by defense attorney Peter J. Korzenewski, Alevrogiannis was also present at the hearing to oppose the prosecution's motion for one trial against Alevrogiannis and Crowell.
Alevrogiannis and Crowell were each charged with five misdemeanors: two counts of second-degree assault, one count of conspiracy to commit second-degree assault and two counts of racial or religious harassment.
The fight began as an exchange on a bus filled with college students returning from a Baltimore nightclub, but it escalated into a fistfight on campus, the documents stated.
Alevrogiannis referred to the KKK, spelled out the word "hang" and told the two black students that he would make them "bite the curb," according to the charging documents. That phrase is an apparent reference to a scene in the movie American History X, in which a white supremacist forces a black man to lie on a street and open his mouth on a concrete curb before stomping on the back of the man's head.
"The overriding feature of the evidence is inflammatory, extreme and uttered by people who were intoxicated," Kemp said. "There's no evidence that my client acted in concert with Mr. Alevrogiannis. He is tarnished by an improper brush."
David P. Daggett, deputy state's attorney for Carroll County, said at the hearing yesterday that the state is dropping two counts of racial and religious harassment and one count of second-degree assault against Crowell. He said that witnesses have come forward to exonerate Crowell on those charges.
But Daggett added that although Crowell may not have used racially charged language, he was still involved with Alevrogiannis in the events that started on the bus and continued on campus. Witnesses identified Alevrogiannis on the bus calling friends on campus to "beat up" Johnson and Silva, Daggett said. Alevrogiannis and Crowell conspired to attack the two sophomores, who probably weigh about the same combined as the 285-pound, 6-foot-3 Alevrogiannis, the prosecutor said.
He said the state would also drop the charge of conspiracy to commit assault against Alevrogiannis.
Beck said he would issue a written order on the request for separate trials by the time Crowell returned to court Wednesday for another hearing. The judge called the case a discredit to the college community.
Alevrogiannis was suspended from McDaniel for two semesters for violating the college's conduct code that prohibits physical abuse.