Friday, January 11, 2008

Pring-Wilson Admits Killing

Pring-Wilson testifies at a hearting in 2004 (Boston Herald)
It was announced today that former Harvard grad student Alexander Pring-Wilson pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. This means that he did not kill his victim, Michael Colono, in self-defense but rather killed him within the following definition: "an unintentional killing occasioned by an act which constitutes such a disregard of the probable harmful consequences to another as to be wanton or reckless" or "an unintentional killing resulting from a battery." This, of course, goes against Pring-Wilson's original story that he was attacked by Colono and Colono's cousin, Samuel Rodriguez, as he walked back from a nightclub in 2003. In the words of Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone, "He has admitted his guilt, and he is a convicted killer."

Unfortunately, that may not be enough for the Colono family. In his deal, Pring-Wilson is expected to receive a 2 year prison sentence, of which Leone says Pring-Wilson will have to serve at least one. Pring-Wilson was already convicted on a charge of manslaughter in 2004, but this was overturned when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that a victim's past criminal history should be allowed to be introduced as evidence when a defendant claims self-defense - something that was not allowed in Pring-Wilson's first trial. Pring-Wilson's second trial ended in a hung jury, prompting the Middlesex DA to vow a third trial. According to the Boston Channel, which cited a Pring-Wilson family friend, Pring-Wilson avoids a possible 7 year sentence, which he could have recieved if he were convicted in trial number three.

Victim Michael Colono and girlfriend Cindy Guzman
(The Crimson)
The disparities between the two people at the center of this trial are stark. Pring-Wilson, a Harvard grad student hailing from Colorado Springs, Colorado was walking home after partying with friends at a nightclub when he passed Colono, a GED graduate who worked as a hotel cook and had a few past brushes with the law. Words were exchanged between the two, with Colono apparently making fun of Pring-Wilson for being "shitfaced." Pring-Wilson said he was then attacked by Colono and his cousin and that he stabbed Colono to death in self-defense. Other stories about the events of that night abound, including one that states Pring-Wilson challenged Colono to a fight after being laughed at by Colono and his friends.

Pring-Wilson's actions that night were criminal, but what added to suspicions of the validity of his claims of self-defense were his actions following the incident. On a 911 call he stated that he was simply "a fuckin' bystander" and that he "just saw it happen." He also gave conflicting reports to police shortly following the incident. Certainly not the actions of a man who acted in self-defense.

Additionally, many people are making a big deal of Colono's past criminal history. All of his prior arrests were for crimes against property orverbal threats against police officers; nothing physically violent against other people. No prior assaults. Colono's cousin, Samuel Rodriguez, however, had several prior arrests for assaults, yet he was not charged with assault in this case and he was not stabbed. It was based on the fact that the jury did not know the specifics of Colono's past arrests (though jurors admitted they knew Colono was not a "solid citizen"). But should Colono's past be so important in the case, given that Pring-Wilson himself did not know it when he got involved with him that night?

The Pizza Ring, outside of which Pring-Wilson killed Colono
(coylesh's Flickr)
My main issue with this verdict/plea deal is this: if the roles were reversed, would Colono be given the same opportunities as Pring-Wilson? Would Colono be given $400,000 bail pending his retrial? Would the judge who presided over the case personally overturn the verdict before being ordered to do so by the Massachusetts Supreme Court if Colono were the defendant and Pring-Wilson the victim? Would Colono be convicted of manslaughter in the first place? Would Leone offer Colono such a softball of a plea deal? My instincts tell me no. Pring-Wilson's background (both his parents are lawyers, one of them a former assistant district attorney), coupled with his Harvard education and white skin versus Colono's background (high school dropout) and his minority status proved to help Pring-Wilson in this case. I highly doubt that if the roles were reversed the case would not conclude in the same way.

2 comments:

  1. Did Colono's cousin testify..as to why he drove a bleeding Colono to Trader Joes...where the cousin hid rather than rushing his dying cousin to the hospital..that has always been an interesting event.
    I heard the cousin was back in prison?

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  2. I wasn't at the trial nor do I know Colono's cousin personally, so I don't know the answer to either question.

    Nor do I see what it has to do with the fact that Pring-Wilson stabbed Colono, resulting in Colono's death, for which he was charged and then admitted to.

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