Inset via Cornell Big Red

John Greenwood '20, a 19-year-old Cornell student, was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor charges, including assault, after a black student said he was punched in the face and called the N-word.

September 20, 2017

Police Charge Cornell Student With Additional Misdemeanor in Collegetown Assault

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Ithaca Police charged the white Cornell student who they say assaulted a black student in Collegetown with a second crime on Wednesday, saying the white student yelled the N-word several times before punching the victim in the face.

The victim, a junior and member of Kappa Sigma, said in a statement to police that he was attacked by four or five white men early on Friday morning after they had shouted expletives and the N-word at him. Many of the details he provided to police in the statement, which was filed in Ithaca City Court on Wednesday, match what he told The Sun on the day of the assault.

Police arrested a 19-year-old Cornell student, John P. A. Greenwood ’20, and charged him with third-degree assault and second-degree aggravated harassment, both misdemeanors. Greenwood’s attorney, Ray Schlather J.D. ’76, said in an email that his client “was in no way involved in any physical altercation of any kind” and did not commit “any crime.”

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 said police are “reviewing the evidence that they have against the statutes that they have for a hate crime,” and Officer Jamie Williamson said the investigation into potential additional charges is ongoing. A Cornell Law professor told The Sun that the incident, as reported, appears to “qualify as a hate crime under New York law.”

When police asked the victim shortly after the assault why he thought he was targeted, he said he believed it was because he is black.

“I have a pretty good idea,” he told police, according to court documents. “They were calling me ‘Nigger,’ so I believe it was because of the color of my skin.”

Police said Greenwood punched the victim, an “African American male, in the face after yelling the racial slur ‘nigger’ several times. Three witnesses who provided statements to Ithaca Police each gave similar accounts of the incident.

One Cornell student said he saw the victim arguing with a group of men and encouraged him to return to his house on Eddy Street. One person followed them up to the steps of the porch, the first witness said. When the witness told the man to leave, the man shoved him twice, the witness said.

The group of men began walking away from the house and “towards their place next door,” the witness said, when a white man in the group with “black wavy hair” yelled the N-word several times.

The witness did not see the following altercation, but said he “heard a loud pop” and walked up the sidewalk to check on his friend — the junior Cornell student identified as the victim.

The witness said he saw him “walking funny, kind of staggering or swaying as he walked,” and that his shirt was soaked in blood from his nose. The witness helped clean the junior up and laid him down, after which the student complained of pain in his head and face. The junior previously told The Sun that he went to Cayuga Medical Center to test for a broken nose and concussion, of which he had neither.

A second witness said in a statement to Ithaca Police that a man in a white shirt “slapped me in the face and knocked some food I had out of my hand” after calling him the N-word and a variation of the epithet. The witness appears to be the same student who is arguing with two white men in a video obtained by The Sun on Friday.

Mirroring details in the victim’s and the first two witnesses’ accounts, a third witness said a man in a white button-up shirt came onto the porch of the victim’s house and shoved the other witness when he tried to get the man to leave. The man in the white shirt and two others left and began walking up the hill, the third witness said, when he yelled the N-word.

After the altercation, the victim “was bleeding from his nose area” and “had a lot of blood on his shirt and all over his face,” the third witness told police.

Black Students United plans to hold a rally on Wednesday at 12:30 in Day Hall, where the group plans to deliver a list of demands to administrators, followed by an occupation of Willard Straight Hall at 1 p.m.