Three New York college students who had previously stated they were the victims of a racially motivated attack while riding on a city bus in January have been indicted for falsely reporting the incident.
According to the indictment, the students are also being accused of the assault, or attempted assault, of passengers on the bus in Albany, New York that the trio claimed they had in fact been attacked on.
Two of the students have now been expelled from their university, and the third has been suspended.
Albany County District Attorney P. David Sores noted the girls in question to be Ariel Aguido, 20, Asha Burwell, 20, and Alexis Briggs, 20. All three women face charges of assault and multiple counts of falsely reporting the incident. Agudio and Burwell each face additional charges of harassment, and Agudio also has charges of attempted assault.
Claims in January from the three girls, all black students at the State University of New York at Albany, included allegations of having been harassed and assaulted by as many as 12 white men and women during a confrontation on a public bus. One of the three girls can be heard on a 911 phone call that occurred after the incident in question, reports Tobias Salinger for The New York Daily News.
“Hi, I just got jumped on a bus and no one did anything,” one of them said. “Me and my three friends got jumped. It was a racial crime, they were calling us ‘n—-r’ and all this stuff. And if someone doesn’t come and take this down, or something, I’m going to call the news.”
Protests ignited on the campus of the University at Albany after the claims were made public, as students expressed their support for the three girls, reports Tim Stelloh for NBC News.
The hashtag #DefendBlackGirlsUAlbany also became popular on social media as the incident began to make national headlines. The People of Color Caucus also issued a letter in support of the girls.
After the initial claims, the school’s president put out a statement about the incident, saying he was “deeply concerned, saddened and angry.” A three-week university police investigation followed, with authorities saying in February that evidence suggested the original claims were in fact false and that it was actually the three women who had assaulted a 19-year-old female passenger who had also been riding on the bus. Security footage taken from the bus showed the women assaulting white students.
“What happened on the bus was not a ‘hate crime,'” University Police Chief Frank Wiley said in February, according to CNN. “The only person we heard uttering racial epithets was one of the defendants.”
Meanwhile, the women have pleaded not guilty to the charges of assault and harassment. Frederick Brewington, one of the lawyers for Burwell, has criticized the school since then, referring to it as a “University of Injustice.”
“The three women, who were all students in good standing, have been arrested at the urging and insistence of the Albany University Police and the University at Albany,” Brewington said in a statement. “The real crime now is that the University is serving as the charging party against its own students in the criminal courts.”