Joker-face Pittsburgh college student faces aggravated assault charges

Published On: Oct 04 2013 07:47:50 AM HST

He says he was going to a comic book convention after class. Instead, Christian Smith ended up spending four days in jail.

Smith is a 21-year-old senior at Carlow University in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. He’s now suspended from the school and facing felony charges. Smith showed up on campus Sept. 27 with his face painted as the Joker, a character from Batman movies.
"I just want to get back to school to get my education so I can finish this semester and graduate this year,” Smith said Thursday.

Last year, a shooter killed 12 people when he opened fire inside a Colorado movie theater during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises.” Court documents explain Smith’s appearance startled several people on the Carlow campus who called 911.

The university’s campus police responded and found Smith waiting for class to begin. According to the criminal complaint, when police asked Smith to step out of the classroom into the hall he became “belligerent toward us and his classmates yelling profanities.” At one point, the documents indicate, Smith also said, “…you’re picking on me because I’m black.”

"Christian Smith never felt wanted on that campus. Whether it will go into racial profiling is for another day,” said Smith's attorney, Phil DiLucente. "Was my client disorderly? Yes. But what precipitated that type of conduct?”

DiLucente said the young man feels like he’s being targeted because of his race. He said Smith has been repeatedly asked to present ID by people on campus to prove he’s a Carlow student when others are not asked. DiLucente said he believes campus police provoked Smith by continuing to demand he remove the makeup even after they determined he was not a threat.

“They found out he didn't have any weapons on him, that he was a student, he wasn't a harm to himself or others, and they let him go back to class,” DiLucente said. “It's the second interrogation we have a problem with, and led to these charges."

The criminal complaint details Smith’s interactions with the police officers and accuses Smith of striking one officer and spitting on another.

Carlow spokesman Andrew Wilson responded with a statement, writing, “Carlow University is confident in the actions of university police in protecting the rights and privileges of the student involved, and ensuring the safety of its students and the campus community.  In order to protect the privacy of the student, we cannot comment further regarding internal actions taken.”

DiLucente wants the university to drop the charges. Smith was arrested and spent four days in the Allegheny County Jail until his family could come up with the money to post bond.