No one to be charged in SEMO fight

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle will not file charges in connection with a fight on the Southeast Missouri State University campus Monday morning that sent a student to the hospital.

Swingle said in a news release issued Friday afternoon that, after reviewing the evidence provided him, there wasn't a clear enough picture of who started the fight to file any charges.

"The fight was a mutual fight between two adult males," Swingle said in the news release. "The two men gave drastically different versions as to who started the fight. It would be impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt which one was the initial aggressor. As a result, self-defense cannot be ruled out as to either fighter. A prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that a defendant was not acting in self-defense. It simply cannot be done in this case."

The fight happened Monday morning in a bathroom at Magill Hall. One student, 18-year-old Richard Samuel, went through a glass wall and was cut on the arm.

Samuel's mother, Christa Samuel, told the Southeast Missourian on Wednesday that her son's cuts went to the bone and required surgery. Richard Samuel sustained nerve damage and had four severed tendons, she said.

Christa Samuel said she'd not yet heard that Swingle had decided not to file charges as of Friday afternoon. She declined immediate comment and said her son wasn't ready to comment.

In his news release, Swingle gave more details on the incident that the university Department of Public Safety released in a redacted incident report earlier in the week. The university had redacted large parts of the report, citing the need to protect an ongoing investigation.

Swingle said Samuel admitted he had gone to the bathroom expecting a fight and had taken his jacket off to make the fight easier. Samuel said the other fighter, identified only as a 19-year-old male, came to the bathroom and they started shoving each other, according to the news release. Samuel said the fight ended when he was pushed through the glass wall.

The 19-year-old claimed he was in the bathroom when Richard Samuel, a walk-on on the university football team, charged him and tackled him "football-style," according to the news release. The momentum carried the two into the glass, which is how Richard Samuel sustained his injuries. Swingle said the 19-year-old then "hurried to his dorm room" and called university police. As he waited on police, several of Richard Samuel's friends tried to gain entry to his dorm room, the 19-year-old said.

"This is one case that will need to be left to the university for disciplinary matters and to the civil courts for any legal action," Swingle said in the release. "The officers from the university police did an excellent investigation, but sometimes it is impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt who started a fight."

The university's Judicial Affairs office refused to release information on possible disciplinary action or hearings, citing the need to protect students' private educational records.

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