Black University of Albany students faked hate crime and are now facing assault charges, police say

When called 911 in January, she told a dispatcher that she had been the victim of a racially charged crime.

“They were calling us [N-word] and all this stuff,” Agudio told a dispatcher, the Albany Times Union reported. “And if someone doesn’t come and take this down or something, I’m going to call the news.”

Agudio, Alexis Briggs and Asha Burwell, all three 20-year-old black students at the State University of New York at Albany, claimed they had been targeted by a group of white men and women on a bus at about 1 a.m. on Jan. 30.

The story made national headlines. There was a rally in the wake of the news, which reportedly drew hundreds. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even tweeted about it.

But the allegations weren’t true, authorities say.

Agudio, Briggs and Burwell now face criminal charges related to the incident, with authorities characterizing the trio as the aggressors in the alleged physical attack. Authorities allege that the three students attacked another woman “despite the efforts of several passengers to stop them,” a university news release said. And police couldn’t find evidence that anyone had shouted slurs at the students, as they had previously claimed.

“We took this incident very seriously and did a thorough and careful investigation,” University Police Chief J. Frank Wiley said in a 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.”


Here’s how the charges break down:

– Agudio has been charged with assault, falsely reporting an incident, attempted assault, and attempted criminal mischief

– Burwell has been charged with assault and falsely reporting an incident

– Briggs has been charged with assault

All three are expected to appear for arraignment Monday.

“Ms. Agudio, an exemplary young woman, an excellent student who has never previously been in legal trouble, asks that people not rush to judgment in this matter,” Agudio’s attorney, Mark Mishler, told the Albany Times Union in a statement. “ 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.”

Authorities said the actual victim of the incident was a 19-year-old woman from Congers, New York, who also was a bus passenger.

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Investigators “found no evidence to support the initial allegations that these three women were targeted in any manner due to their race, and no evidence that racial slurs were directed toward them,” the release said.

Police viewed surveillance footage from the bus and shipped audio recordings to the state crime lab, so the sound could be enhanced. Thirty-five passengers who were aboard the bus were interviewed during the three-week investigation, authorities said.

“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,” Wiley said in his statement. “The only person we heard uttering racial epithets was one of the defendants.”

About Sarah Larimer, Washington Post