April 18, 2013

Sigma Pi Brothers Say They Tried Stopping Man in Racial Attack

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In the aftermath of a racial attack at the Sigma Pi fraternity in May, Sig Pi brothers told law enforcement officials they tried to stop the individual responsible from throwing beer cans at the group of black students passing by the house.

On May 6, an individual individual on the roof of the Sigma Pi fraternity reportedly threw beer cans and yelled racial epithets at a group of black students passing by underneath. Morgan Brabbs, a resident of Orlando, Fla., who was not affiliated with Cornell, pled guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $250 in June.

The incident sparked outrage from minority leaders and prompted several groups to demonstrate against racial bias in front of Day Hall. However, documents revealed three main differences between the Sigma Pi brothers and Brabbs’ account and the victims’ accounts.

While the victims said they did not hear any brother objecting to Brabbs’ comments, Sigma Pi brothers who gave voluntary statements claimed they either tried to discourage Brabbs or pull him away from the balcony at the time of the alleged attack.

After the “Trayvon” comment was made — referencing Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was shot and killed in central Florida in February 2012 — a Sigma Pi brother “forcibly moved” Brabbs from the upper deck, according to a voluntary statement. Another brother said he repeatedly told Brabbs to “Stop fucking throwing shit.”

The victims, however, said they did not hear anyone on the rooftop telling others to stop throwing objects or to stop making verbal comments. According to one victim’s account, they “just heard laughter.”

Additionally, though all of the victims said someone threw a glass bottle in their direction, Brabbs and all the Sig Pi brothers who gave voluntary statements to police denied the allegation or said they did not remember a glass bottle being involved.

Another point of difference related to the racial comments that were allegedly yelled from the fraternity’s rooftop.

Although everyone who gave a voluntary statement said they heard a comment referencing Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American who was shot and killed in February 2012, the victims described hearing additional racial comments. The victims said they heard references to “Gary Coleman” — an African-American actor — and “Tyrone,” while Sigma Pi brothers and Brabbs denied hearing anyone say anything racial but “Trayvon.”

Court documents also explain additional details about the night. At the time of the incident, Brabbs, was visiting Ithaca with a friend whose name was redacted in court documents. The two men spent the day drinking at Sig Pi before heading to bars in Collegetown, according to court documents.

Brabbs returned to the fraternity with an unknown female at about 1:45 a.m. After the unknown female left, Brabbs joined several brothers on Sigma Pi’s rooftop. According to Brabbs’ friend’s statement, Brabbs was upset when the unknown female left.

When he went to the rooftop, Brabbs said he decided to throw an open can of beer at a tree like “he and other members of the fraternity had been doing all day.”

Brabbs saw a group of people on the sidewalk when he said in the documents that he tossed a beer can near them, and a black male who walked to the front door of the fraternity verbally confronted him.

The black male, whose name was also redacted in the court documents, said to police that Brabbs threw not a beer can, but a glass bottle, in his direction. The male and his friends, who were walking back home from a party, saw the bottle land in the grass “with the neck of the bottle dug in,” according to another victim’s account.

Brabbs, however, said in the documents that he does not remember throwing a glass bottle toward the group. None of the brothers said Brabbs threw the bottle, although they said Brabbs did throw two beer cans near the group.

When the victims heard the bottle landing on the ground, the male said he immediately looked up at the fraternity house and said, “Are you serious? What is your problem?”

Original Author: Jinjoo Lee