March 12, 2013

Man in Collegetown Attack to Face 15 Days in Jail After Plea Bargain

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A man accused of attacking and yelling racist, homophobic slurs at four Cornell students in August was sentenced to 15 days in jail — rather than the two years he could have faced — as a result of a plea bargain reached in the Ithaca City Court on Tuesday.

Anthony Stephans, a student at Trinity College, was arrested on four counts of aggravated harassment in August in connection with the Aug. 19 attack.

According to witness testimony, at approximately 1:40 a.m. in Collegetown, Stephans reportedly taunted and chased after students who had never seen him before. Stephans, who is Caucasian, allegedly yelled at one of the victims, “You’re going to burn, Saigon bitch” and shoved another one of the victims into a metal railing — ignoring the victims’ pleas to “Leave us alone.” When the victims ran away, he allegedly yelled, “Just keep prancing down the street.”

Under New York State law, Stephans could have served up to two years in jail for the initial charges brought by the Tompkins County District Attorney’s office. Because the attorneys’ settlement dropped the misdemeanor charges, Stephans instead pled guilty in court Tuesday to two violation-level charges: harassment in the second degree and trespassing.

Stephans will be allowed to complete the remainder of his semester at college before returning to Ithaca in May to serve his sentence, Judge Judith Rossiter J.D. ’86 said in court Tuesday.

Though the reason for the reduced sentence was not expounded on in court, Rossiter characterized the incident as a “little misadventure.” Still, Rossiter chided Stephans, lamenting the role she said alcohol likely played a role in the incident.“I’ve seen a lot of people do a lot of stupid things under the influence of alcohol … But you have to draw the line between things that are stupid and things that are hurtful,” Rossiter said.Rossiter said she “strongly urges” Stephans to seek professional evaluation, treatment or classes relating to inappropriate drinking. At one point, Stephans — with his attorney, John Stevens, whispering to him — stood up in the courtroom to deliver what Stevens introduced as a statement apologizing for his actions. “I’d like to apologize for harassing [the victims],” Stephans said before sitting down again.The four victims were not present to hear Stephan speak.After the court adjourned, the victims expressed a mixture of feelings — relief at the trial ending, dismay at Stephans’ reduced sentence and a desire to move on from the incident. The victims were granted anonymity by The Sun to protect their identities.One victim expressed frustration at the fact that the court dropped multiple charges against Stephans.“I guess I’m just glad he was prosecuted,” the victim said. Another victim said that she was almost relieved that she did not have to testify in court as a result of the settlement.“I didn’t want to go through it again. I didn’t want to talk about it again,” she said.Rossiter said in the courtroom that the court will issue an order of protection for the victims, which will bar Stephans from contacting the victims for the next two years. In response to Rossiter, Stephans’ attorney — who declined to identify himself by name after the hearing — responded, “I don’t think he even knows who they are or would be able to identify them.”Stephans’ 15-day sentence is the maximum length one can spend in jail for a non-criminal violation. His sentencing comes more than six months after the attack allegedly occurred. In the aftermath of the reported attack, several community leaders, including Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 and President David Skorton, issued statements condemning the incident.The victims said in their testimony that while Stephans screamed at them and shoved them, bystanders on the crowded Collegetown street remained passive: “just watching, [and] not helping.”When the victims fled to a Collegetown residence, Stephans pursued them and reportedly tried to follow them inside.“I was afraid of my life because this male was trying to harm me in any way that he could,” one of the victims said to police after the incident.

Original Author: Akane Otani