Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Assault Suspect Maintains Innocence

A Georgetown student who was arrested last week for allegedly assaulting another student early last month pleaded not guilty to the charge on Friday.

The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Philip Cooney (MSB ’10) on Thursday for simple assault with a hate/bias specification after the victim, a Georgetown student who wishes to remain anonymous, identified Cooney on Facebook. Cooney was released from custody and is scheduled for a Superior Court status conference, where a date for his trial will be set, on Oct. 12.

The victim was sent to the Georgetown University Hospital during the early hours of the morning on Sept. 9 after his assailant allegedly tackled him to the ground and punched him on the head after yelling homosexual slurs.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia issued on Sept. 26, the victim reported that at 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 9, while walking northbound on the 3600 block of O Street, he heard Cooney, who was with another individual, yell, “Look at macho man Randy Savage with his tank top. Where you going, faggot?” The victim reported in the MPD incident report that the suspect also said, “You’re so buff.” The victim said that he ignored the comments and continued walking but noticed that the two suspects were following him, and one of them called out, “Yo faggot, what are you looking at?” He said in the affidavit that as he turned onto 36th Street, Cooney tackled him from behind and punched him around the head with closed fists. The victim reported in the affidavit that he “made a point to remember the face and description of the defendant.”

According to the MPD report, the two assailants fled the scene in an unknown direction. The victim said in the report that he strongly suspected that the assailants were intoxicated.

The victim was transported to the Georgetown University Hospital with minor bruising to his right eye and cuts to his right arm, according to the report. He reported the incident to both MPD and Georgetown’s Department of Public Safety.

The victim declined comment for this report.

The affidavit said that the victim learned from a friend that a fellow student who matched the description provided by the victim was discussing the incident during a class. The friend also noted the initials monogrammed on the student’s backpack.

The victim went on to search through his friend’s Facebook friends and identified Cooney through his pictures. Cooney has since deactivated his Facebook profile.

After MPD received and confirmed Cooney’s identification information, it received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Cooney’s student identification photo. The affidavit said that the victim was presented with nine photos and identified Cooney as the assailant.

Danny Onorato, Cooney’s attorney, referenced the Duke lacrosse rape case in warning against misjudging his client, according to NBC4 News.

“The police investigation was nothing,” he said. “You have a complaining witness who says he saw someone who he thought may have attacked him vis-a-vis the Web. That’s the investigation. Did they try to talk to Mr. Cooney before the investigation? No. Would you expect the police to do that? Yes.”

Channing Phillips, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said that the “bias/hate specification” in Cooney’s sentence exposes a convicted person to one and half times the “baseline punishment,” which in this case bumps up a baseline maximum of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for simple assault to a maximum of 270 days in jail, probation and a $1,500 fine.

Andrew Solberg, commander of MPD’s Second District, said that he did not know if the person with the assailant was also a Georgetown student but said that the investigation is ongoing. He confirmed, however, that both assailants were male.

“We would like to find out who the second person was,” he said.

According to the Code of Student Conduct, the incident would constitute a Category C violation, which could result in suspension or dismissal from the university. University spokesperson Julie Bataille said that Georgetown will determine how to proceed through the Code of Student Conduct.

The university has allowed Cooney to return to class while the investigation proceeds.

Eric Pallotta (MSB ’07), an openly gay friend of Cooney’s from the rugby team and a former business director of THE HOYA, said that he spent a significant amount of time with Cooney last year.

“We would hang out on a social basis frequently, and he was never uncomfortable around me, he was never hostile in any way. He was always a sweet kid,” Pallotta said. “There’s nothing in my experiences with him or knowing his background and education that would indicate any tendency of homophobia or violence in general.”

Pat DePoy (COL ’09), another of Cooney’s friends from the rugby team, said he was advised by Onorato not to speak directly about the incident, but he said that Cooney is one of the “nicest, sweetest” individuals and that Cooney’s friends and the rugby team is “completely supportive” of both Cooney and the victim.

“I just want to emphasize that we know that when crimes like this happen, people get emotional, but everyone in this country is innocent until proven guilty, so we cannot jump to conclusions,” he said. “The facts will come out at the trial.”

Vice President for University Safety Rocco DelMonaco said that the victim also reported the incident through the university’s bias reporting system. GUPride handed out information about this system, encouraging students to use it, Friday in Red Square. GUPride held a rally protesting both this incident and other hate crimes at Georgetown yesterday.

There have been 21 reported cases of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in the District of Columbia in 2007, according to PD.

– Courteney Lario contributed to this report.

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