Carlow student faces charges after wearing movie makeup in class

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 6:15 p.m.

A Carlow University student spent four days in jail and is charged with eight counts — including two felonies — stemming from an incident in which police asked him to remove comic book character makeup while he was in class, and he refused.

“Carlow is just completely overreacting to this,” said attorney Phillip DiLucente, who represents Christian Smith, 21. Smith was dressed as The Joker from a Batman film.

Carlow officials declined to answer questions but released a statement.

“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,” the statement read.

Campus police officers arrested Smith on Sept. 27 after they were called to a quantitative reasoning class for a disturbance. Smith attended class with his face painted similarly to the movie and comic book character played by the late Heath Ledger. Afterward, he intended to attend the Pittsburgh Comicon convention at the Monroeville Convention Center, DiLucente said.

“After he went back into the classroom, they should have left him alone,” DiLucente said.

Campus police received numerous calls about a man with Joker makeup, according to a criminal complaint. Officers said Smith was belligerent and used profanity when they questioned him and told them that he was being targeted because he is black, according to the complaint.

After initially allowing Smith to return to class, officers went back and asked him to remove the makeup, but he refused to comply. While escorting him out of the building, Smith spit at an officer and then head-butted another as they removed him from a police cruiser to bring him into the campus police station.

Officers took Smith to UPMC to have him committed for psychiatric reasons, DiLucente said. When the hospital refused to admit him, Smith spent four days in the Allegheny County Jail, Uptown, on $25,000 bond.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23. Smith is charged with resisting arrest, making terroristic threats — both misdemeanors — four counts of disorderly conduct and two felony counts of aggravated assault.

In court documents, Carlow officials said Smith violated policies in the student handbook related to:

• Threatening or endangering the health and/or safety of himself or others.

• Treating members of the university community or others with civility or respect.

Smith, a senior art major, graduated from North Catholic High School and attended the Community College of Allegheny County before enrolling at Carlow, DiLucente said.

“We're hoping this case doesn't go any further in the court system,” DiLucente said, “from either side.” He declined to say whether his client was contemplating a lawsuit against Carlow.

County prosecutors this week dropped charges against University of Pittsburgh senior Jonathan Hewson, 21, who walked into an Oakland store dressed as Spider-Man and asked a clerk how much cash he had. The clerk decided not to pursue the case.

Pitt suspended Hewson, who is attempting to be readmitted.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or

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