After mistrial, Pring-Wilson pleads guilty in stabbing death

Erin Smith

After years of maintaining his innocence, a former Harvard student who stabbed a Cambridge, Mass., resident to death pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter Friday afternoon.

Alexander Pring-Wilson, 29, was sentenced to two years and one day in prison for killing Michael Colono, 18, in 2003.

Pring-Wilson was given credit for the 290 days he spent in jail, reducing the maximum time he could spend behind bars to just more than one year and three months.

Pring-Wilson could be released early for good behavior, but he’s unlikely to get more than several weeks shaved off his sentence, Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone said.

Leone said the Colono family told him they were relieved Pring-Wilson pleaded guilty but were disappointed in the criminal justice process. After almost five years, two trials and an appeal to the Superior Judicial Court, it’s been a “long and difficult process for the Colono family,” Leone said.

Pring-Wilson’s admission of guilt to the lesser offense comes after a judge declared a mistrial in his manslaughter case after jurors deadlocked in December.

It was Pring-Wilson’s second trial in the case. In 2005, Pring-Wilson was convicted of killing Colono and sentenced to six to eight years in prison. He appealed the verdict and never served that sentence. Last year, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled Pring-Wilson should get a new trial where he could bring up the criminal records of Colono and Colono's cousin, Samuel Rodriguez, as part of his self-defense claim.

After the mistrial, Judge Christopher Muse asked attorneys from both sides to try to work out an agreement in the case, Leone said.

Since 2003, Pring-Wilson has adamantly argued he killed Colono in self-defense, while prosecutors argued a drunken Pring-Wilson killed Colono for making fun of him.

In the early morning hours of April 2003, prosecutors say, a drunken Pring-Wilson stumbled down Western Avenue on his way home to his Somerville apartment from a night out at the bars drinking with an ex-girlfriend and a friend.

As Pring-Wilson staggered by, Colono -- who was waiting in a car for a takeout order from Pizza Ring with Rodriguez and Rodriguez’s girlfriend -- allegedly made fun of him for stumbling and wearing a bright yellow rainslicker. Pring-Wilson stabbed the unarmed Colono multiple times in his chest, stomach and forearm, but said he only stabbed Colono after Colono and Rodriguez beat him to his knees. Pring-Wilson also testified during the trial that he never heard Colono’s insults because was on his cell phone with his girlfriend in Colorado as he walked past Colono’s car.

Pring-Wilson told police varying accounts in the hours and days after he killed Colono, at first telling 911 dispatchers that he was just a “[expletive] bystander” in the stabbing.

The Pring-Wilson trial became a lightning rod for debate on issues of race and class and the legal system. Colono, a Latino prep-cook and teen father of a 3-year-old daughter, had dropped out of Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Pring-Wilson was a master’s candidate at Harvard for Russian and Eurasian studies at the time of the incident.

Cambridge Chronicle