By Jano Tantongco
Two University of Albany students who graduated from Walt Whitman High School were among three women arraigned Monday for allegedly falsely claiming they were victims of a racially-motivated attack on an Albany city bus in January, and for allegedly assaulting a woman.
Ariel Agudio, 20, of Huntington; Asha Burwell, 20, of Huntington Station; and Alexis Briggs, 20, ofElmira Heights; told police they were the victims of a racial assault by a group of white men and women at around 1 a.m. on Jan. 30 on a city bus that was on University of Albany campus.
At least one of the three, Burwell, later took to social media to call out the supposed attackers, and shame idle bystanders.
This led University of Albany President Robert Jones to issue a statement denouncing the attacks, and to a tweet made by current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that said, “There’s no excuse for racism and violence on a college campus.”
However, following a three-week investigation by University of Albany police, during which police released audio and video of the incident, it was Agudio, Burwell and Briggs who were charged in Albany City Police Court.
“We took this incident very seriously and did a thorough and careful investigation,” University Police Department Chief J. Frank Wiley said in the statement. “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.”
Police allege that the three women assaulted a 19-year-old woman from Congers, New York.
Agudio faces charges of third-degree assault, third-degree falsely reporting an incident, third-degree attempted assault and fourth-degree attempted assault. Burwell faces third-degree assault and third-degree falsely reporting an incident. Briggs faces third-degree assault.
All three pleaded not guilty, according to a statement made by Albany County District Attorney David Soares. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 29.
Police said Agudio, Burwell and Briggs originally claimed that they were beaten by white men.
In an audio clip of a 911 call Agudio made to police, she said “I just got jumped on a bus and no one did anything. It was a racial crime...they ripped out all of our hair and everything.” Agudio also said her alleged attackers used racial slurs.
However, police said video and audio evidence of the incident fails to demonstrate that any men hit them.
Police said they interviewed 35 passengers, reviewed video from 12 security camera tapes from the bus, looked at four smartphone videos from passengers, examined video from the school’s surveillance system, reviewed university building access records and listened to audio recordings.
In an interview on Tuesday, Ariel Agudio’s mother, Monique, defended her daughter, claiming everything her daughter did was in “self-defense.”
“Everything’s she’s stated has been consistent, she hasn’t changed her story at all,” Monique said. “I’m proud of my daughter because she’s standing up for herself and her rights.”
In a video taken by a bus security camera, Agudio is shown picking up pieces of her hair extensions. Her mother argued that she was initially attacked, having her hair pulled out, and that videos fail to show that.
“There’s two sides to the story,” Monique Agudio said. “The girls have had a good reputation. They were in the wrong place, at the wrong time, on the wrong bus.”