Two University of Albany students from Long Island who last month said they were the victims of a racially motivated attack pleaded not guilty Monday to assault and false reporting charges at their arraignment in Albany City Court.
Asha Burwell of Huntington Station, Ariel Agudio of Huntington and Alexis Briggs of Elmira Heights, all 20 and African-American, were the perpetrators — not the victims in the Jan. 30 incident on a city bus, investigators said.
Each woman was charged with assault: Burwell and Agudio also were accused of falsely reporting an incident and harassment. Agudio faces an additional charge of criminal mischief.
Burwell and Agudio had told police they were accosted by more than 10 white students who beat them and called them racial slurs. Their claims prompted outrage on campus. Hundreds of students and faculty attended a rally drawing attention to violence against black women at the university.
Burwell, a 2013 graduate of Walt Whitman High School in West Hills, served as the spokeswoman for the trio, telling attendees she and her friends were “determined to seek the justice which we deserve.”
She tweeted extensively about the incident, saying no one stepped forward to help. She told police the same.
“Me and my friends were jumped on a bus because we are black,” Burwell said in a 911 call shortly after the incident.
Agudio concurred, telling police they were shoved by “20 white people,” calling the incident “a racial crime.”
But law enforcement officials say their claims were baseless. After reviewing numerous videos captured by the bus’s own cameras and by the cell phones of several witnesses, they said the girls were the aggressors.
They said Burwell and Agudio climbed over a seat on the bus and struck two female victims in the head and face with their hands. Burwell threw one punch with a closed fist, investigators said.
Some of the other passengers tried to break up the fight, law enforcement said. That’s when Briggs pulled those passengers away, allowing the fight to continue, they said.
Investigators say too, that Agudio knocked a cell phone from one man’s hand. She then struck him in the head numerous times before grinding her hand into his face, investigators said.
Burwell and Agudio were released into the supervision of the Department of Probation.
Briggs was released on her own recognizance.