January 11, 2008 / 10:33 PM / 10 years ago

Ex-Harvard student pleads guilty in deadly stabbing

BOSTON (Reuters) - A former Harvard University student on Friday pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the 2003 stabbing death of a man in a street fight and was sent to prison for two years.

Alexander Pring-Wilson, who killed kitchen worker Michael Colono with a pocketknife, changed his plea to guilty ahead of what would have been a third trial in Middlesex Superior Court, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex County District Attorney said.

The switch brought an unexpected end to the long-running case that underscored class and racial tensions in the Ivy League community of Cambridge and made national headlines when Massachusetts’ highest court granted Pring-Wilson a second trial after he was convicted of manslaughter in 2004.

Pring-Wilson, who had been free on bail for several years, was taken into custody and will now serve two years in prison, the spokeswoman said.

The 29-year-old former graduate student is white and the son of a well-known defense lawyer. Colono was Hispanic.

Cambridge is known as a liberal city but there are sharp economic divisions between Harvard’s red-brick campus and poorer neighborhoods nearby. The 2000 census shows 68 percent of the city’s residents are white, 7 percent are Hispanic and 12 percent are Black or African American.

Pring-Wilson long contended that Colono started the fight when the men met by chance at a pizza parlor near the Harvard campus and that he had acted in self-defense.

After a jury convicted Pring-Wilson of manslaughter, he won a second trial because his lawyers had not been able to use Colono’s violent past as evidence. A judge declared a mistrial in the second trial last month after the jury was deadlocked.

The prosecutor had planned to launch a third trial this year. Pring-Wilson’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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