SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Two Skidmore College students facing assault charges in connection with a brawl in a Broadway diner in December struck a plea agreement in City Court Tuesday morning.
The students, Elijah A. Johnston and Korvin E. Vincente, each pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a non-criminal violation. Each will also have to pay a $120 surcharge to the court.
Johnston, Vincente and fellow student Sakhile C. Sithole were each originally charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault in connection with the incident. Those charges accused them of physically assaulting a man inside Compton's Restaurant early on the morning of Dec. 18.
A fourth student, Justin J. Tavarez, was accused of shouting racial epithets and leading the assault. Police said the four men are all black or Hispanic. Witnesses told police the four students taunted two men - one black, one white - who were seated inside the restaurant.
Early witness reports claimed that, after one of the men left to use the bathroom, the four students threw the white man against a wall inside the restaurant and began to punch and kick him. The man was later treated for his injuries at Saratoga Hospital.
Subsequent statements made to police, which were not made available for public review, are "not compatible" with earlier witness statements, according to attorney E. Stewart Jones, who represented Vincente in court on Tuesday.
Jones would not elaborate on the content of the subsequent witness statements, which are in the possession of the Saratoga Springs City Police Department.
"There was a great deal of confusion about what happened," said Jones, who described his client as being in a physically "defensive mode" during the incident inside the restaurant.
Johnston was represented Tuesday by Daniel Stewart of the Queensbury-based law firm Brennan and White.
Stewart said he was satisfied the matter was resolved and added that, as a provision of law, documents related to his client's case other than court records will be sealed.
City Court Judge Jeffrey Wait said that, rather than assigning community service projects or ordering counseling for the defendants, he would leave any potential disciplinary action up to the college's academic integrity board.
"This is the equivalent of a dismissal," Jones said outside the courtroom shortly after his client accepted the agreement. "I don't think he could have been convicted of anything, but there comes a time when you have to put this behind you."
Sithole is expected to plead to a similar violation charge when he returns to City Court on March 1. He is represented by attorney Peter Moschetti. A phone message left for Moschetti was not returned.
Tavarez will be sentenced on April 5 in City Court on a misdemeanor third-degree assault charge as part of a plea deal that dismissed a pair of felony charges previously brought against him under the hate crimes statute.
The students were initially represented by a public defender. On Feb. 3, a "statement of support" signed by four educators and staff members at the college was released and addressed to "members of the campus community."
The letter announced that a legal defense fund had been established to "secure and retain adequate representation" for the students and provided an address and contact name at the Troy chapter of the NAACP for donations to the defense fund. A phone call to the chapter was not returned.
Johnston, a freshman, and Sithole, a sophomore, are members of the college's basketball team. Both were suspended from playing and practicing with the team for six weeks immediately following the incident. They were reinstated earlier this month, according to the college, and are still subject to disciplinary action by an administrative hearing board.