Student accused of homicide

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.– A Harvard graduate student accused of stabbing a teenager to death testified yesterday he was being brutally beaten by two men and feared for his life when he pulled his knife.

Alexander Pring-Wilson, 26, got on one knee in front of the jury to dramatically re-enact the street fight that resulted in the death of Michael Colono, an 18-year-old cook.

Pring-Wilson is on trial for first-degree murder. The case has highlighted long-simmering tensions between working-class residents of Cambridge and students at the elite Ivy League school.

Pring-Wilson said he was walking home from a nightclub in the early morning of April 12, 2003, when he passed Colono sitting in a car outside a pizzeria with his cousin and his cousin’s girlfriend.

Pring-Wilson said he was talking on his cell phone when he heard someone call to him from the car. He said he thought they were asking for directions, so he approached the driver’s side door and asked if someone was addressing him.

He said a man in the front seat responded with an expletive and Pring-Wilson had a similar reply and started to walk away.

“That’s when, boom, he came out of the car,” Pring-Wilson said, swinging his fists in the air. “He hit me in the nose, right off the bat, and kept slamming at my head. He was just out of control.”

Then he said he felt someone else hit him from behind, “over and over and over and over.”

Earlier in the trial, Colono’s cousin, Samuel Rodriguez, testified that he went to Colono’s aid when Pring-Wilson started to get the upper hand in the fight. But Rodriguez said he landed only a single punch to Pring-Wilson’s head.

Pring-Wilson said he reached into his pocket for his folding knife and began flailing it around over his head. He felt the blade make contact, then Colono and Rodriguez broke for their car.

His version of events differed substantially from those of Rodriguez and Rodriguez’s girlfriend, Giselle Abreu, who said Pring-Wilson was the aggressor, reacting angrily when Colono ridiculed him for stumbling drunkenly down the street.

Prosecutors have said Pring-Wilson gave at least five different accounts to police, telling them at first that he’d only witnessed a fight, then saying that he’d tried to intervene in a fight, then finally acknowledging he may have stabbed someone.

In a combative cross- examination, Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Lynch accused Pring-Wilson of stabbing Colono.

“Unfortunately I did, and I feel horrible, OK?” he responded, his voice cracking.

Lynch challenged Pring-Wilson’s assertion that he was cowering on his knees when he flailed the knife around, saying the angle of Colono’s wound suggested otherwise.

“So you just happened to get a lucky shot into his heart?” Lynch asked.

“I wouldn’t call it lucky,” Pring-Wilson said. “It’s the most horrible thing.”

An honors graduate of Colorado College, Pring-Wilson was studying for his master’s degree in Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard. He took a leave of absence from school after his arrest last year.

If convicted of first-degree murder, he faces an automatic sentence of life in prison without possible parole.