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Former Instructor Faces Assault Trial

By Todd F. Braunstein

William D. Cole, a prize-winning former Harvard instructor, will be tried this May bay jury of his peers for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

A Barnstable County district judge has set May 16 as the date for opening arguments in the Cole case, according to Ned Lynch, the Barnstable district attorney who will help prosecute the case.

Cole is being charged for biting the thumb of James A. Visbeck, a dealer in rare look based in Cotuit, Mass.

The Harvard Ph.D. allegedly bit Visbeck's thumb when the bookstore owner accused him of swiping three rare books on June 23, 1994.

Cole also faces a count of larceny in a building in connection with the same incident.

Both charges are felonies.

Cole's lawyer, Boston attorney Jonathan Shapiro, has filed a motion to dismiss the charges. That motion was supposed to have been heard this Wednesday. But Shapiro said in an interview last Thursday that the hearing was postponed because he is busy trying a federal case.

The hearing has not been rescheduled, Lynch said.

Lynch said it is standard for judges to set trial dates when motions to dismiss are pending.

Cole left Harvard last winter after teaching for several years in the core curriculum. He conducted lectures and sections at the level of instructor and claimed the Levenson Prize for teaching excellence in the spring of 1991.

An outspoken critic of what he perceived as rampant grade inflation, Cole found himself quoted in national publications after an article he wrote helped ignite campus debate on the issue in 1993.

Cole was also targeted in a Harvard Police investigation for allegedly slashing dozens of University-owned rare books last spring. That investigation is ongoing, Sgt. Kathleen Stanford said yesterday.

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