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Victim uses Facebook to finger suspect

  • Story Highlights
  • Police use Facebook to locate, charge suspect in hate crime
  • Suspect is a Georgetown University sophomore
  • The victim was attacked on September 9 near Georgetown's campus
  • Georgetown University is now investigating the incident
  • Next Article in U.S. »
From Larry Shaughnessy
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Using a Facebook profile, police arrested a suspect in an attack on the Georgetown University campus.

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The victim searched through Facebook profiles to identify his attacker.

The university sophomore appeared in court Friday, charged in connection to what police called a hate-crime attack near campus nearly two weeks ago.

Phillip Anderton Cooney of Southlake, Texas, is charged with simple assault with a bias/hate crime specification, according to police officials and an official in the U.S. attorney's office.

Prosecutors added the "bias/hate crime specification" to the case because the victim, a 19-year-old who is also a Georgetown student, said the attacker was yelling homophobic epithets during the attack.

The victim was attacked on September 9 just off campus near the intersection of 36th and O streets in the Georgetown neighborhood. Police said he suffered cuts and bruises to the face and a broken thumb in the attack.

After the attack, the victim started looking on Facebook to see if he could find the person who attacked him, according to Lt. Alberto Jova of the Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

When he found a profile of someone who looked like his attacker, police investigated, then created a photo spread of possible suspects. The victim picked Cooney's photo from the photo spread and Washington police worked with Georgetown University Public Safety officers to arrest him.

Cooney was taken into custody by a University Public Safety officer during an exam. Jova said he'd never heard of a crime victim using Facebook to help police catch a suspect before.

The "hate/bias specification" means if convicted, he could face a stiffer maximum sentence. A misdemeanor simple assault conviction is punishable by up 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. With the specification for a hate/bias crime, the maximum would be 270 days in jail and $1,500, according to Channing Phillips, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Georgetown University is investigating the incident and will consider whether Cooney has violated the University's Student Code of Conduct.

Spokeswoman Julie Green Bataille said that could lead to any number of sanctions against Cooney, including expulsion from Georgetown. But until that investigation is over, Cooney will be allowed to return to class.

Neither Georgetown University nor the Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit has released the victim's name. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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