September 13, 2006

Poffenbarger ’08 to Stand Trial in Dec.

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More than six months after a stabbing on West Campus shocked the Cornell community, the trial of alleged perpetrator Nathan Poffenbarger ’08 has scheduled to begin Dec. 4 in Tompkins County Court, District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson told The Sun.

Early in the morning of Feb. 18, Poffenbarger and an unidentified female were walking together near Baker Tower on West Campus after reportedly being kicked out of a fraternity party for belligerent behavior and use of racial slurs, according to sources familiar with the incident.

After leaving the fraternity, Poffenbarger continued using racial epithets and was overheard by a group of three Union College students walking nearby, University officials said. The three students, all of whom are black, confronted Poffenbarger, who is white. A verbal altercation escalated, and Poffenbarger allegedly stabbed one of the students, Charles Holiday.

After an Ithaca Police vehicle arrived on scene, Poffenbarger fled. He later turned himself in after learning the police were looking for him.

Wilkinson told The Sun that there is no evidence to support the theory that the female with Poffenbarger at the time had any part of the assault.

Holiday was treated for a wound below his right shoulder that had punctured one of his lungs, which later collapsed; he has since recovered.

In May, a grand jury voted to indict Poffenbarger on five charges: one count of tampering with evidence, three counts of assault in the 2nd degree as a hate crime and one count of assault in the first degree as a hate crime. He was later arraigned.

“As with any other criminal charge he must and will be presumed innocent,” Wilkinson said at that time.

Wilkinson told The Sun yesterday that she expects the trial to begin on schedule, with a jury pool being chosen from Tompkins County residents in December.

Joseph Joch ’66, a former district attorney of Tompkins County, represents the defendant.