The U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped charges on Tuesday against Philip Cooney (MSB ’10), who was accused seven months ago of an alleged hate crime against a gay student, after deciding there was insufficient evidence against him.

“Before going forward in any criminal case, we must feel confident that a crime has been committed and that the person charged is the person who committed the crime,” said Channing Phillips, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “Our subsequent investigation raised doubts as to the second factor – that is, whether based upon available evidence, we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant in this case was the person who actually committed the assault.”

Cooney was accused of the reported assault after an initial identification through his Facebook profile. If Cooney had been convicted, he would have faced 270 days in jail, probation and a $1,500 fine. In October, Cooney turned down a plea offer, pleading not guilty.

Cooney was alleged to have shouted homophobic slurs and to have assaulted a student in a reported hate crime on Sept. 9. According to the arrest warrant affidavit, the victim was walking on O Street in the early morning when he was approached by two men. One assailant allegedly tackled him from behind and punched him around the head. The victim was then transported to Georgetown University Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

The affidavit states that, soon after the incident occurred, a friend of the victim saw a classmate matching one of the suspect’s physical descriptions talking about the incident during a class. After the friend took note of his monogrammed backpack initials, the victim searched Facebook and found Cooney’s profile. The victim then identified Cooney on Facebook and in the Metropolitan Police Department’s nine-photo spread.

Dan Onorato, Cooney’s attorney, said in an interview with THE HOYA last October that he did not believe the Facebook identification process was credible evidence, adding that Cooney passed a polygraph test administered by a retired FBI expert.

Phillips said the U.S. Attorney’s Office would only consider reopening the case if credible evidence developed that established the identity of the assailant.

Onorato said that he was impressed by the way Cooney held himself throughout the legal proceedings.

“Despite the high-profile nature of this case, Philip, at all times, conducted himself with great focus and dignity,” he said. “He is truly an extraordinary young man.”

The university did not take action against the defendant or the victim during court proceedings.

“Georgetown University respects the autonomy of the U.S. Attorney’s decision and the independence of the external criminal proceeding,” said university spokesperson Julie Bataille. “Both undergraduates involved remain students in good standing while the university’s confidential review of this incident is ongoing.”

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