November 25, 2003

Arrests Made in Assault

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According to a Cornell News Service media advisory released to The Sun yesterday, four female Ithaca residents, ages 20, 19 and two age 14, were arrested last week in the most recent development of the investigation into an assault that occurred Nov. 9 following the Ludacris concert at Barton Hall.

The investigation was conducted by the Cornell University Police Department and the Ithaca Police Department. During the two-week duration of the investigation, the CUPD and IPD interviewed the victim of the assault, witnesses and alleged perpetrators.

One 14 year-old was arrested last Wednesday and another the following day. Each was issued a juvenile appearance ticket and charged with assault in the third degree — a misdemeanor — as well as given a persona non grata letter for campus property. These charges may be upgraded, according to Police officials, pending further medical evaluation of the victim.

Also last Thursday, a 19 year-old and a 20 year-old were arrested and charged with harassment in the second degree, a violation. They were issued tickets to appear in the Ithaca City Court on Dec. 3 and received persona non grata letters for campus property.

A persona non grata letter means they “are not allowed on Cornell property any more — and they can be charged with violating that if they return to campus,” said Linda Grace-Kobas, interim vice president for communications and media relations.

The assault occurred outside Barton Hall at approximately 11:45 p.m., after the concert had let out. The confrontation was alleged by the victim to be a continuation of an incident from earlier in the evening. As a result of the assault, the victim suffered a ruptured ear drum and a cut near her mouth that required 13 stitches.

In an earlier report, the victim recalled one of the assailants saying, “Get your white hair out my face.”

Although initial reports suggested that the incident may have been racially-motivated, further investigation did not support the contention that a hate crime had been committed. This determination was based on interviews and statements from witnesses and participants of the incident, according to the media advisory.

Despite what the investigation concluded, the victim continues to believe that the assault was racially motivated. “I still believe it was — because that was the whole basis of what they were saying to me. That upsets me, that the police determined it was inconclusive, since I definitely think it was [racially motivated],” she told The Sun yesterday.

In order for the incident to be classified as a bias crime, it would have to be determined that it was “a crime perpetrated solely on the basis of race or discrimination,” said Capt. Curtis S. Ostrander, deputy director of the CUPD.

Grace-Kobas explained that “the law is very specific when it comes to hate crimes. There were a lot of interviews conducted — and based on statements by the victim, eye witnesses and those accused of the crime, it was determined that the incident did not meet that criteria.”

Susan H. Murphy ’74, vice president for student and academic services, said, “Any type of violent incident is a rare occurrence at Cornell and contrary to our expectations and policies. When such incidents occur, they harm not only those involved, but the entire community. We are grateful to the Cornell and Ithaca police investigators for their excellent investigative work in this case.”

Unless new information is provided to investigators, CUPD have concluded their investigation into this matter, the media advisory stated. Any remaining actions concerning the two juveniles arrested will be taken by the Tompkins County Probation Department, while the Ithaca City Court will handle the other two harassment charges.

Archived article by Tony Apuzzo