At least 10 people were on the roof of the Sigma Pi fraternity when a visitor from Florida threw beer cans and yelled racial epithets at black students passing beneath, according to a statement released Tuesday by Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson.
Morgan Brabbs of Orlando, Fla., was fined $250 and has been banned from Cornell’s campus after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct in Ithaca City Court Wednesday, the D.A.’s report said. Additionally, Brabbs, who is not a Cornell student, has apologized to the victims, the University and the fraternity for the attack, which provoked a torrent of criticism from minority organizations and a protest at Day Hall.
Shortly after initial reports of the incident surfaced, Cornell’s Sigma Pi chapter said a single perpetrator was to blame. While the statement from the D.A. does not contradict that account, it says that 10 to 15 people were on the balcony, known as the “beach,” at the time of the attack.
Still, according to interviews conducted by police, people began throwing bottles and cans from the fraternity balcony as early as the afternoon of May 5, hours before the harassment of the black students at about 2:30 a.m. on May 6. They were apparently trying to hit a tree in the fraternity’s front yard, the D.A.’s report states.
The D.A. provides further evidence that, at least at the outset, the bottle throwing was not racially motivated.
“In the opinion of one victim, it was so dark that the people on the roof may not have known the race of the passersby or even seen them,” the report states.
Then, a black student approached the walkway to the front of the fraternity and shouted at the people above to stop. “A person shouted back ‘Walk away, Trayvon,’ and ‘Come up, Gary Coleman,’ and ‘Tyrone,’” the D.A.’s report says.
The Sigma Pi fraternity remains on interim suspension pending a University review of the police investigation.