Student accused of assault goes on trial today

Carroll County

March 23, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

The trial of a former McDaniel College football player accused of using racially charged slurs in the assault of two other students is scheduled to begin today after a Carroll County judge ruled yesterday that witnesses could not use racial epithets in their testimony.

A nearly three-hour hearing in Carroll County Circuit Court yesterday afternoon featured several college students who recounted their version of a confrontation Nov. 6 that escalated into a brawl that left a McDaniel student with a broken finger and a wound to his jaw and neck that required 40 stitches, according to court documents.

The fight began as a verbal exchange on a chartered bus filled with McDaniel College students returning from a Baltimore nightclub, but it quickly escalated into a fistfight on campus, charging documents stated.

Nicholaos G. Alevrogiannis, 23, of Westminster, a fifth-year student and a former standout football player at McDaniel, faces two counts of second-degree assault after Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. dropped charges of racial or religious harassment against him last week.

Alevrogiannis was accused of using racial slurs before the assault that left Stuart Johnson bleeding and unconscious.

Witnesses told the court yesterday that they heard Alevrogiannis use racial epithets against Johnson and Johnson's roommate, Daniel Silva, both African-American sophomores at the college. Witnesses - including Johnson and Silva - testified that Alevrogiannis told them to "bite the curb."

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 bringing down his foot on the back of the man's head.

The college students testified in court that the bus driver pulled the bus over several times because of the chaos onboard.

Other witnesses also testified that Alevrogiannis threatened Johnson and Silva as the bus returned to the Westminster campus, saying that there would be "a countdown to death." Another witness said she heard Alevrogiannis tell Johnson and Silva, "Go back to Africa."

Alevrogiannis' defense attorney, J. Barry Hughes, argued yesterday that the court should not allow racial epithets during the trial, saying that it would be "highly inflammatory" and irrelevant to the assault that occurred after the students exited the bus.

Hughes called the witness comments hyperbolic, and said that the incident was no more than a fistfight.

David P. Daggett, deputy state's attorney for Carroll County, said the statements made on the bus showed motive and the intent to harm that led to the assault afterward.

After listening to the testimony, Judge Michael M. Galloway stated that many of the racially charged comments "should be excluded because that value as evidence is more than counter-balanced by the reaction it may create." But he said he would allow witnesses to testify to threats of violence if they could identify the speaker as Alevrogiannis. Galloway will draft a memorandum detailing which racial comments are not admissible by the start of today's trial.

Also yesterday, a jury of eight men and four women was chosen for the trial, which Galloway said could take up to four days. Two alternate jurors - a man and a woman - also were chosen. All of the jurors are white.

Another student, Thomas E. Crowell, 24, of Brinklow in Montgomery County, was named in charging documents as one of several men who attacked Johnson and Silva, documents showed.

Alevrogiannis and Crowell are both white.

Crowell's trial is scheduled for next month.

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