McDaniel student is found not guilty in campus fight

March 26, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County jury found a McDaniel College student and former football standout not guilty of assaulting two college sophomores during a brawl that followed a racially charged verbal exchange on a late-night bus trip.

The jury of eight men and four women reached a verdict more than three hours after hearing closing arguments in the trial of Nicholaos G. Alevrogiannis, 23, who faced two second-degree assault charges stemming from a fight with Stuart V. Johnson Jr., 19, and Daniel Silva, 20, both McDaniel sophomores.

Alevrogiannis was identified as the key player in a confrontation Nov. 6 that began on a chartered bus returning to McDaniel College from a Baltimore nightclub and escalated into a fistfight on campus. Johnson suffered a broken finger and required 40 stitches to close a wound to his jaw and neck, according to court documents.

Alevrogiannis declined to comment after the verdict, but he grinned and cried as he hugged his mother, who sat in court with other family members during the three-day trial before county Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway. Johnson, Silva, and their family and friends also declined to comment.

"The jury was out 3 1/2 hours and obviously took their instructions very seriously," said defense attorney J. Barry Hughes. "They took the time to hold the state to its burden of proof, eliminating the highly inflammatory and prejudicial aspects of the case. ... In the end, the inconsistencies in the state's case made it difficult for the state to prove its burden."

Additional charges of racial harassment against Alevrogiannis were dropped in court last week. Johnson and Silva are black and are roommates at McDaniel. Alevrogiannis is white.

Galloway barred witnesses at the trial from recalling racial or ethnic remarks made on the bus because he said the words would unfairly prejudice the jury against Alevrogiannis. The judge allowed testimony of violent threats as relevant to the assault charges.

Accounts of that trip and what happened afterward differed between the witnesses presented by defense attorneys and those presented by prosecutors.

Defense witnesses characterized the bus ride as relatively uneventful, except for some heated words between the two sophomores and Alevrogiannis. Six defense witnesses testified that back on campus Silva was the aggressor, breaking away from another friend and rushing at Alevrogiannis. The witnesses were football teammates of Silva's.

Alevrogiannis, they said, fought back with defensive techniques he picked up playing football in college and wrestling in high school.

David P. Daggett, deputy state's attorney for Carroll County, asked jurors to consider the possibility that defense witnesses - all former teammates of Alevrogiannis or current fraternity brothers, or both - had every reason to lie and protect their friend.

"They circled their wagons," Daggett said. "They're not about to give up on their friend."

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