Three SUNY Albany students are facing criminal charges after falsely claiming they were victims of a racially motivated attack on January 30. The three African American women, Ariel Agudio, Alexis Briggs, and Asha Burwell, all 20, will be charged with third-degree assault and with falsely reporting an incident.
Early Saturday morning on January 30, Agudio, Briggs, and Burwell claimed they were harassed and assaulted by a mob of white people while riding on a CDTA bus back to campus from the bars in Albany.
Their story involved 10-20 white students spewing racial epithets and punching and kicking them while on the bus.
After the alleged assault, at least two of the women took to Twitter and Instagram with their claims.
“I just got jumped on a bus while people hit us and called us the ‘n’ word and nobody helped us,” wrote one of the students.
“I got beat up by 20 people screaming racial slurs,” wrote another, later adding that “a whole bunch of guys started hitting me and my two friends.”
One of them also wrote on Twitter: “I begged people to help us and instead of help they told us to shut the (bleep) up and continuously hit us in the head.”
Asha Burwell tweeted: “I can’t believe I just experienced what it’s like to be beaten because of the color of my skin.”
Her brother, San Diego Chargers lineman Tyreek Burwell, tweeted a threatening message to a student he thought hurt his sister.
The message was quickly deleted, but the damage was done. The student Tyreek threatened left school — at least temporarily — out of concern for his safety.
“He’s gone, he left school,” a fellow student said.
Without confirming whether the allegations were true, UAlbany President Robert Jones said he was “deeply concerned, saddened and angry about this incident.” Hundreds of students appeared at a rally that also included members of the National Congress of Black Women and the Albany chapter of Black Lives Matter.
At the rally, Burwell declared while tears streamed down her cheeks, “We are proud of who we are. As black women, we are shocked, upset, but we will remain unbroken.” Protesters displayed signs in support of the alleged victims and demanded change “in the form of hiring minority faculty and providing sensitivity training for University police.”
Democrat presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton jumped into the fray, tweeting her support for the women’s dubious story before all the facts were in:
There’s no excuse for racism and violence on a college campus. https://t.co/ADVghl4iEv -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 4, 2016
The story began to unravel as soon as cell phone videos emerged that did not match the alleged victims’ description of what happened.
Sources close to the investigation told WTEN:
Officials, including the Albany County DA, are looking at security video from inside the bus. The bus had at least 12 cameras on it, which include audio. Sources tell NEWS10 ABC the video is damaging the young women’s accusations.
The bus surveillance videos have still not been released, but Albany County District Attorney David Soares did show them to members of the city’s black community along with university officials “in an attempt to defuse rising tension amid national attention about the students’ story.” They agreed that the videos did not match what the women claimed happened.
In fact, according to News 10, “one source who watched the video firsthand said it was one of the three young women who threw the first punch, and that at no time did any passengers hurl racial slurs as first claimed.”
The source said it was one of the accusers who used a slur against a white passenger and called her a nasty name.
Alice Green, a well-known Albany social activist and director of the Center for Law and Justice, was one of the few people who was invited by the Albany County District Attorney to watch the bus video.
“I would not lock them up, but if it comes to be that they made false claims, there needs to be an apology perhaps,” she said of the young accusers.
Agudio, Briggs, and Burwell are now accused of attacking a 19-year-old white passenger on the bus that night.
UAlbany police says their evidence shows Agudio, Briggs and Burwell were actually the aggressors in the fight, and that they continued to assault the victim despite the efforts of several passengers to stop them.
Albany Police Chief J. Frank Wiley issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:
“The evidence shows that, contrary to how the defendants originally portrayed things, these three individuals were not the victims of a crime. Rather, we allege that they are the perpetrators…”
“I especially want to point out that what happened on the bus was not a ‘hate crime.’ We spent a great deal of time carefully reviewing the audio recordings to determine whether any racial slurs were used. The only person we heard uttering racial epithets was one of the defendants.
And it is important to note that no witness reported hearing any racial slurs directed at the defendants. And those witnesses were people from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.”