May 5, 2006

Grand jury indicts sophomore in stabbing incident

A Cornell sophomore who allegedly stabbed a visiting Union College student on West Campus Feb. 18 has been indicted for a hate crime assault by a Tompkins County grand jury.

Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson announced the indictments May 3.

Nathan Poffenbarger, ILR '08, 20, of Woodsboro, Md., was indicted on one count of first-degree assault as a hate crime, three counts of second-degree assault as a hate crime and one count of tampering with physical evidence, all felony charges.

Poffenbarger was initially arrested and charged with second-degree assault after allegedly stabbing Charles Holiday, 22, of Brooklyn. The indictments charge that Holiday, who is black, was stabbed after Poffenbarger taunted him with racial slurs. Holiday has since recovered from a chest wound and a punctured lung.

"The stabbing and its aftermath has been a traumatic experience for everyone," Tommy Bruce, Cornell vice president for university communications, said in response to the indictment. "We are confident in the judicial system and in its appropriate handling of this matter."

Poffenbarger has been on interim suspension from the university since the incident, and he is not allowed on campus.

The stabbing has sparked several public forums, including one in March, at which President Hunter Rawlings and other Cornell officials responded to questions and concerns from the campus community, and a town hall meeting held May 3 by the College of Architecture, Art and Planning to discuss what lessons can be learned from the incident.