Three black students from State University of New York at Albany who police say lied about being targets of a racially motivated attack on city bus pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of assault and harassment. Two of the three women also pleaded not guilty to charges of falsely reporting the incident.
The charges against the women came weeks after a rally at the school supporting them; they had claimed they were attacked by a group of white men and women Jan. 30.
Last week university police said a three-week investigation found the three women actually assaulted a 19-year-old female passenger in the incident, were not subjected to racial slurs and falsely reported the incident. In addition, WTEN-TV reported one of the accusers was recorded on a 911 call — apparently when she thought she was on hold — saying, "I think it's so funny ... I beat up a boy."
TheBlaze reported last week that a witness claimed one of the accusers used a racial slur against a white female passenger.
Image source: WTEN-TV
"The evidence shows that, contrary to how the defendants originally portrayed things, these three individuals were not the victims of a crime," university Police Chief Frank Wiley said in a statement before the arraignment. "Rather, we allege that they are the perpetrators."
After Monday’s hearing, the women, all 20 years old, face various charges, CNN reported. Ariel Agudio was charged with assault in the third degree, falsely reporting an incident in the third degree, attempted assault in the third degree, harassment in the second degree and attempted criminal mischief in the fourth degree; Alexis Briggs was charged with a count of assault in the third degree; Asha Burwell was charged with assault in the third degree, harassment in the second degree and falsely reporting an incident in the third degree.
The false reporting charges emerged from the initial 911 calls Agudio and Burwell made to police on Jan. 30.
Agudio’s attorney, Mark Mishler called the charges "unwarranted" in a statement Monday.
"It is also unfortunate that some in the media and public appear to have reached a conclusion as to what occurred in this incident without actually having the information needed in order to reach such a conclusion," Misher said. "Ms. Agudio, an exemplary young woman and an excellent student who has never previously been in legal trouble, asks that people not rush to judgment in this matter."
Agudio and Burwell were released on the condition that they would be monitored by the state Department of Probation. Albany City Court Clerk Shawn Gallagher reported that Briggs was released with the condition of a 9 p.m. curfew.
The evidence against the three women emerged from interviews with 35 bus passengers, video from security cameras on the bus and videos recorded by passengers, police said.
The 19-year-old woman who was the alleged subject of the students’ assault has not been identified.
"What happened on the bus was not a 'hate crime,'" Chief Wiley said. "The only person we heard uttering racial epithets was one of the defendants."
The incident gained traction on social media after it was initially reported, resulting in the hashtag #DefendBlackGirlsUAlbany. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even joined the cries for justice before the true details unfolded.
There's no excuse for racism and violence on a college campus. https://t.co/ADVghl4iEv -H— Hillary Clinton (@Hillary Clinton) 1454596374.0
On the day of the arraignment, the People of Color Caucus, Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration published a letter in support of the students.
"No male struck the three women," Monday's police statement said. "The evidence indicates they were actually the aggressors ... and that they continued to assault the victim despite the efforts of several passengers to stop them."