ITHACA, N.Y. — In a graphic seven-minute video shown at the Tompkins County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon, a homicide witness wails for his dying friend after they were both stabbed during a fight at Cornell University in August.
Ithaca College student Anthony Nazaire was stabbed in his chest and, despite EMS efforts to save and resuscitate him, died on a grassy lawn during the early morning hours of Aug. 28.
Raheim Williams, 20, took the stand Tuesday morning and throughout the afternoon, describing in detail what happened the morning his friend was killed.
Both men were Ithaca College students from Brooklyn who’d become close friends and were getting ready to start their sophomore year together.
“He’s like a brother to me. I met him in the fall of my freshman year. We lived on the same floor (at East Tower),” Williams said.
The two attended a party on Aug.27 hosted by the fraternity Omega Psi Phi Fraternity — a workout themed party where attendees wore workout attire.
Williams said he drank about two shots of the cognac Hennessy before attending the party with friends. He planned to meet Nazaire at the party.
Williams said that the party was pretty standard as far as college parties go: dancing, music, hanging out. He said there was no alcohol served because Cornell University prohibits alcohol at on-campus parties.
At some point, he said he began feeling hot and nauseous, so he stepped outside for fresh air with some friends and threw up twice. He said that had nothing to do with the alcohol he’d drank a couple hours earlier.
A friend of his noticed him and Nazaire sitting on a bench shortly afterward and offered to give them a ride home. The teens agreed and the friend left to get his vehicle.
Nazaire and Williams then walk toward Campus Road and College Avenue – Williams’ left arm wrapped around his friend. While walking, Williams said he bumped into a girl.
“Basically, just my right side of my body— my leg — kind of brushed against hers,” he said, sparking an argument between two groups of people that escalated into profanity ridden yelling. Near the intersection, the two friends ran into more friends who happened to be at the intersection at the same time because of the proximity of the party.
“I realized Anthony was in the middle of the road trying to diffuse the situation of what was going on,” Williams said, adding that he joined Nazaire in case the situation became violent.
The first punch was thrown shortly afterward, he thinks, by Green, who he’d locked eyes with as the groups argued. He said he is pretty sure it was Green who attacked him from behind, hitting him in the head, but said later it’s possible he was mistaken.
“After I felt that punch — that’s when the brawl started,” he said. “Basically everybody that was there started throwing fists…”
The main brawl involving about a dozen people lasted about about a minute. Williams said several smaller fights then broke out, including between him and Green.
Williams testified that Green was the person he initially locked eyes with in the street before the fighting started, and said Green was the only person wearing a backpack that night.
When the fight between the two started, Williams said he stood face to face with Green before grabbing him by the backpack straps and pulling him onto the ground. Green ended up on top of him, and Williams tried to turn his body to try to get out from under Green.
“That’s when I called to Anthony to try get his help,” Williams said, noting that his friend was 5 – 10 feet away.
He said Nazaire threw two punches at Green — one with each fist — and then fell over. As his friend landed onto his right leg, Williams said he saw blood coming out of his mouth and then Green ran away. The entire incident lasted about 45 seconds.
Williams then shouted at his friends to be careful of the guy with the backpack, but says he never saw Green with a knife in his hand.
When he looked down at his friend again, he said couldn’t see that Nazaire had been stabbed because of the dark T-shirt he was wearing.
The rest of the incident was recorded on an Ithaca Police officer’s body camera — the first body camera footage to be used in a murder trial in Tompkins County.
Judge John Rowley allowed the first seven minutes of the roughly 30 minute clip to be played for jurors, saying the rest of the video primarily depicted Williams being treated and taken to a hospital.
Officer Caprice VanAuken was one of the first few officers to arrive at the scene.
In her body camera footage, jurors could see a first-person perspective of her arriving at the scene where several emergency responders were providing first aid to Nazaire, who was lying still on the ground.
Williams, who was still unaware he’d been stabbed multiple times in the back, is directly by Nazaire.
“At that point I didn’t know why I couldn’t move. It was just at a standstill,” he said in court. “Anthony was no more than five feet away from my toes.”
In the body camera footage, Williams can be heard wailing his friend’s name several times and telling the crowd of people that Nazaire was still alive.
Ithaca firefighters can be seen starting to treat Williams for his wounds, along with VanAuken. Shortly afterward, Nazaire’s treatment stops and EMS officials can be seen providing CPR to him.
The video was stopped at about that time.
Williams was later airlifted to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse to treat three wounds on his back, some of which are several inches long. Including the marks from the staples he received, the marks are about the width of a dime.
Throughout his testimony, parts of Williams’ narrative is shown along with Snapchat videos submitted into evidence, each less then 10 seconds long and each shown multiple times in slow motion and at regular speed.
The prosecution – District Attorney Matt Van Houten, ADA Eliza Filipowsk, and ADA Alyxandra Stanczak – says the videos corroborate Williams’ story. But the defense says the grainy, chaotic videos show that Williams’ testimony has holes in it.
Defense Attorney Joseph Joch, for instance, pointed out discrepancies between Williams’ grand jury testimony and the testimony he gave on the stand.
Those discrepancies include questioning how much Williams says he had to drink that night.
According to his testimony, he had about two shots of cognac before arriving at the party around 11 p.m., and he said he didn’t drink at all at the party. However, when a BAC test was conducted the hospital about two hours after the stabbing, it tested at .08 percent. That means Williams was legally intoxicated during the fight.
Joch also pointed out that Williams was inconsistent about what he says Green was wearing during the fight, saying that Green’s shirt was light blue before saying it might have been dark blue or gray.
Clothing descriptions are important in the case because in the blurred videos, people are often referred to by their clothing. Faces are not clearly distinguishable in the videos shown Tuesday in court.
Throughout the cross examination, Joch asked Williams questions that seemed to be intended to trip up Williams story about what happened that night.
But despite some inconsistencies, Williams remained steadfast in saying Green was the person who stabbed him in the back and killed his friend Nazaire.
The trial continues Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.
Feature photo of Nagee Green during opening statements Monday. Photo by Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice.