Albany Reels As University Hate Crime Found To Be Fake

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Three black female college students who claimed to have been the victims of a racially-motivated attack on a bus in Albany, New York are now facing charges themselves for assault and misleading the police concerning the incident.

A statement released by SUNY Albany President Robert J. Jones notes that the three students who attend the State University of New York in Albany told authorities they had been called racial slurs and “harassed and assaulted” by a group of 10 or 12 white men and women while riding on a city bus after 1 a.m. on January 30 while bystanders looked on.

The initial claims were made during a 911 call, where one of the women was said to have told the dispatcher, “It was a racial crime. They were calling us [N-word] and all this stuff … And if someone doesn’t come and take this down or something, I’m going to call the news.”

All three of the women claimed to have been injured as a result of the attack, with one student being transported to a local hospital for unidentified injuries.

Since that time, the University Police Department have announced plans to charge the women, Ariel Agudio, 20, Alexis Briggs, 20, and Asha Burwell, 20, with assaulting a passenger on the bus and falsely reporting an incident.

In a statement, police said that the evidence that was gathered during their three-week investigation shows the initial claims made by the students “that they were victimized were false” and that instead, it was found that they allegedly assaulted a 19-year-old female passenger on the bus.

The charges brought against the women have been supported by interviews with all 35 of the passengers who were on board the bus at the time, as well as security camera footage and four videos taken of the incident with mobile phones.  In addition, it was found that the men who the women claimed had assaulted them were in fact trying to break up the fight, writes Sarah Larimer for The Washington Post.

“I especially want to point out that what happened on the bus was not a ‘hate crime,’” University Police Chief Frank Wiley said in a statement, according to the Albany Times-Union.

The claims made by the women initially caused protests to erupt on the college campus, as hundreds came out in support of the women, writes Daniella Silva for NBC News.  The incident also brought on extensive media attention, including a sympathetic tweet from Hillary Clinton who wrote, “There’s no excuse for racism and violence on a college campus.”

At the time, SUNY Albany President Jones said he was “deeply concerned, saddened and angry” over the alleged attack.  After being notified of the charges by police, Jones said, “This matter is now in the hands of the criminal justice system,” he said in the statement. “I look forward to the resolution of this case.”

“I ask the community for its continued patience and respect as the judicial process continues,” he added.

All three students are facing charges of assault in the third degree as well as falsely reporting the incident in the third degree.  Agudio faces additional charges of attempted assault in the third degree and attempted criminal mischief in the fourth degree.

The women are scheduled to appear in court on February 29.  If convicted of the assault charges they face up to one year in jail.