Judge Denies Bail to Harvard Grad Student

More detailed accounts of stabbing emerge at hearing

Andrew M. Sadowski

Harvard graduate student ALEXANDER PRING-WILSON confers with his lawyers during a bail hearing Friday morning.

A judge denied bail Friday to the Harvard graduate student charged with fatally stabbing an 18-year-old Cambridge man, citing the severity of the accusations facing the defendant.

Following about an hour of oral arguments, Cambridge District Court Judge Severlin B. Singleton III ordered that Alexander Pring-Wilson, a student at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian studies, remain in jail pending trial for murder.

After reading 60 letters submitted on Pring-Wilson’s behalf by professors, friends and family, Singleton said he was “struck by the fact that [Pring-Wilson] seems to be an extraordinary individual” with “a bright future or maybe a bright future.”

“However, these facts do not outweigh the severity of this offense,” Singleton said.

Pring-Wilson, 25, is charged with the murder of Michael D. Colono outside of a local pizza parlor during the early morning hours of April 12.

Pring-Wilson’s attorney says his client acted in self-defense after being attacked by Colono and another man.

Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Lynch argued that Pring-Wilson poses too much of a flight risk to be released from jail. The defense had requested that Pring-Wilson be released on $100,000 cash bail and placed under house arrest.

Lynch said that Pring-Wilson’s ability to speak multiple languages and a history of international travel could allow him to flee.

Pring-Wilson’s attorney said he plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.

While the circumstances surrounding the stabbing remain disputed, attorneys for both the defense and the prosecution rounded out their accounts of an altercation turned deadly.

Early last Saturday morning, Pring-Wilson was walking to his apartment in Davis Square from the Western Front, a pub in Brighton.

Jeffrey Denner, Pring-Wilson’s lawyer, said his client had been drinking—vodka before leaving to go out around 11:30 p.m., and then four or five whiskey and cokes while he was out.

As he walked past Pizza Ring on Western Ave. in Cambridge, Pring-Wilson, who was talking to his fiancée on his cell phone, overheard a man in a parked car say something about him, his attorney said.

According to prosecutors’ account, Colono, who was sitting in a car with his cousin and a woman, commented on Pring-Wilson, pointing out “that guy staggering” up the street.

Denner and prosecutors agree that after overhearing the remark Pring-Wilson approached the car, and a verbal altercation ensued.

Pring-Wilson opened the car door, and the altercation escalated into a fistfight, Lynch said.

Denner and Lynch agree that Samuel E. Rodriguez, Colono’s cousin, joined in the fight, punching Pring-Wilson at least once.

At some point in the fight, prosecutors said, Pring-Wilson stabbed Colono five times with a pocket knife later recovered in his apartment.

Denner said that his client did not instigate either the verbal or physical altercation, and stabbed Colono in self-defense after he was assaulted.

According to Denner, his client suffered a concussion in the fight.

Colono and the two people in his car then left the scene, Lynch said, because Colono did not realize he had been stabbed.

According to Lynch, Pring-Wilson called 911 once Colono had left and when police arrived professed to be a bystander.

After the incident, Lynch said, Pring-Wilson left a cell phone message for his friend Jennifer Hansen, whom he had spent time with earlier that night.

In that message, he told Hansen that he stabbed a man who attacked him and asked her not to tell anyone.

“I just got attacked. I stabbed them a couple times...I have a killer headache...I had a swell time tonight. I hope you guys made it home,” Pring-Wilson said on the message, according to Lynch.

Colono later died at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Pring-Wilson was arrested at his apartment later that morning.

Denner argued that Pring-Wilson’s 911 call demonstrated his decency and remorse—a theme featured prominently at the hearing.

“Had he not called 911, there’s a good chance he would not be here today,” Denner said.

According to Denner, Pring-Wilson has taken a voluntary leave-of-absence from Harvard.

University officials did not return calls for comment.

But affiliates maintained a large presence in the courtroom Friday, with Pring-Wilson’s classmates and professors present to show their support.

Abigail C. Lackman ’03, who is in a class with Pring-Wilson and has known him for two years, estimated that 30 to 40 supporters from Harvard were present.

Lackman said her entire five-person Serbo-Croatian class—scheduled to meet during Friday’s hearing—went to court instead.

During the hearing most looked on solemnly, but afterwards many cried and embraced.

Lackman said she was particularly upset by Lynch’s suggestion that Pring-Wilson posed a flight risk because of his ability to speak multiple languages.

“I feel that the decision was political. The fact that he speaks several languages has no bearing on whether he’s going to obey the law,” Lackman said.

Meanwhile, Colono’s friends and family also packed the courtroom, and let out loud cheers when the judged denied Pring-Wilson’s bail.

One person was thrown out of the courtroom before the hearing even began, when he uttered an expletive at Pring-Wilson as the defendant entered the courtroom in handcuffs and shackles.

Colono was raised and attended school in Cambridge, and worked at a local Days Inn. He leaves a three-year-old daughter, who is being raised by her mother.

Pring-Wilson, a Colorado native, planned to receive his Master’s degree this spring, and then return to Colorado for law school.

His family and fiancée flew in from Colorado to attend yesterday’s hearing.

—Hera A. Abbasi and Andrew M. Sadowski contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Jenifer L. Steinhardt can be reached at steinhar@fas.harvard.edu.