« on: October 14, 2004, 10:47:46 AM »
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (AP) -- A Harvard University graduate student was convicted of manslaughter Thursday for stabbing a teenage father to death with a knife he said he used in self-defense during a fight started by the victim.
The jury rejected a first-degree murder conviction for Alexander Pring-Wilson, who prosecutors said became enraged when Michael Colono ridiculed him for being drunk. The defense argued that Colono and his cousin were brutally beating Pring-Wilson when he lashed out with a knife to defend himself and inflicted the deadly wounds.
Judge Regina Quinlan revoked Pring-Wilson's bail and scheduled sentencing for later Thursday. Manslaughter carries a possible sentence ranging from probation to 20 years in prison.
As Pring-Wilson was led from the courtroom, his girlfriend and mother sobbed in the front row. Colono's mother, Ada, broke down in tears outside the courtroom and was comforted by her family.
The case represented a collision of two worlds. Pring-Wilson, the privileged son of Colorado lawyers, was studying at Harvard for his master's degree in Russian and Eurasian studies and planning to attend law school. Colono, an 18-year-old high school dropout, had earned his GED and was working as a cook at a Boston hotel. He died the day before his daughter's third birthday.
On April 12, 2003, Pring-Wilson was walking home after a night out with friends. Colono, his cousin and his cousin's girlfriend were waiting for a pizza outside a restaurant.
Witnesses said Colono made fun of Pring-Wilson because he was drunk and stumbling. Prosecutors said the Harvard student then went berserk, beating Colono before he pulled out his folding knife and repeatedly plunged it into Colono's chest and abdomen.
"Michael Colono made fun of the defendant and it cost him his life," Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Lynch said.
But Pring-Wilson testified he was defending himself. In the courtroom, he re-enacted the confrontation, dropping to one knee to show how he cowered on the sidewalk beneath a succession of blows from Colono and his cousin.
"I was thinking, what's going to stop these guys? ... Are these guys going to know to stop when I'm dead?" he testified.
Only then, he said, did he pull out the 4-inch folding knife and begin waving it around over his head in hopes of getting them to stop. The entire fight lasted just 70 seconds.
Prosecutors pursued a first-degree murder charge against Pring-Wilson, saying the stabbing was deliberately premeditated and constituted extreme atrocity and cruelty. One of those conditions must be met to convict for first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.