3 Black University Students Charged After Claiming They Were Victims Of A Hate Crime (UPDATE)

"The evidence indicates they were actually the aggressors in the physical altercation," said university police in a statement.

UPDATE: Feb. 26 -- Charges have been filed against three black female State University of New York Albany students who claimed in January they were assaulted by 10 to 12 white students on a bus. 

The women previously claimed to be victims of a hate crime. University police this week cited cell phone footage from the bus, footage from the cameras on board the bus and witness interviews that contradict the women's account, according to a statement by campus police. Police say the three women were the aggressors in a dispute that injured a 19-year-old white woman.

The three 20-year-old black students, Ariel Agudio, Alexis Briggs and Asha Burwell, garnered national attention after their claims rapidly spread on social media. Their college's chapter of the National Congress of Black Women organized an on-campus rally, and social media users showed support with the hashtag #DefendBlackGirlsUAlbany. Democratic presidential candidate hopeful Hillary Clinton even tweeted her support for the students.

Each of the three students has been charged with misdemeanor assault, which could result in up to one year in jail. Agudio and Burwell were also charged with falsely reporting an incident. Agudio has also been charged with attempted assault and attempted criminal mischief

The three women said that bystanders on the bus, popularly known as the "drunk bus," ignored their cries for help as men in the group assaulted them. However, university police said in a statement that "no male struck the three women... The evidence indicates they were actually the aggressors in the physical altercation, and that they continued to assault the victim despite the efforts of several passengers to stop them."

"This matter is now in the hands of the criminal justice system," SUNY Albany President Robert J. Jones said in a statement to NBC. "I ask the community for its continued patience and respect as the judicial process continues."

Agudio's attorney, Mark Mishler, told Times Union that the charges are "unfortunate" and "unwarranted" and warned people not to make assumptions or judgments without seeing all of the evidence. Mishler called Agudio "an excellent student who has never previously been in legal trouble." She added, "We appreciate those who have spoken out in support of Ms. Agudio. This case will now play out in the court system. We trust, in the end, that Ms. Agudio will be vindicated."

The women are due in court on Monday.


Three black female State University of New York Albany students alleged they were victims of a hate crime when a group of white students harassed and assaulted them on Saturday.  

The women claimed they got into an argument with a group of 10 to 12 men and women from their school after they boarded a city bus, according to the Times Union. The women then allege that they were beaten and called racial slurs by the white students. One women told university police that several men kicked her after she fell to the floor. 

The women got off the bus at a campus stop, according to the Times Union, and two of them went to the Albany Medical Center to treat minor scrapes on their faces. 

Asha Burwell, one of the three black women, shared their story on Twitter, and said that they immediately reported the incident to university police. "I can't believe I just experienced what it's like to be beaten because of the color of my skin," Burwell tweeted.

Albany Officer Steve Smith said if this is a hate crime, "that's something that the Albany police would take very seriously."

University President Robert Jones sent an email to the student body on Saturday afternoon, where he stated that he was out of town but decided to cut his trip short to address the incident.

"I am deeply concerned, saddened and angry about this incident," he wrote. "There is no place in the UAlbany community for violence, no place for racial intolerance and no place for gender violence."

Jones also said the university is working with the the local police department -- they requested to view the video footage from the bus that night -- to identify the students involved.

Campus community members and activists are showing their support for the three women by using the hashtag #JusticeForUA. Burwell tweeted she appreciated the demand for justice, but she said she doesn't know "if I'm ever going to be able to get over this experience."



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