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Upstate N.Y. students who claimed bias attack face criminal charges

Story highlights

  • Alleged hate crime victims were actually the perpetrators, police say
  • 3 black students said they were assaulted by a group of white men and women
  • Charges against the women include assault and falsely reporting an incident

(CNN)Three State University of New York at Albany students who claimed to be hate crime victims are being accused of fabricating a racially motivated attack, according to campus police.

The charges against the women, which include assault and falsely reporting an incident, come weeks after the upstate New York university held a rally in support of the black students, who said they were attacked by a group of white men and women during a confrontation on a bus January 30.
    Days after the alleged assault, university President Robert J. Jones said in a letter to students and faculty that he was "deeply concerned, saddened and angry about this incident."
    But the university police department said a three-week investigation found the three women actually assaulted another passenger, were not subjected to racial epithets and falsely reported the alleged crime.
    "The evidence shows that, contrary to how the defendants originally portrayed things, these three individuals were not the victims of a crime," university Police Chief Frank Wiley said in the statement. "Rather, we allege that they are the perpetrators."
    Police said Ariel Agudio, 20, faces charges of assault in the third degree, falsely reporting an incident in the third degree, attempted assault in the third degree and attempted criminal mischief in the fourth degree; Alexis Briggs, 20, faces a count of assault in the third degree; and Asha Burwell, 20, faces charges of assault in the third degree and falsely reporting an incident in the third degree.
    The three women were being given court appearance tickets for arraignment on Monday, police said. It was not clear if they had obtained attorneys.
    The evidence gathered against them included interviews with 35 bus passengers, video from a dozen security cameras on the bus and mobile videos taken by passengers.
    "No male struck the three women," the police statement said. "The evidence indicates they were actually the aggressors ... and that they continued to assault the victim despite the efforts of several passengers to stop them."
    The 19-year-old woman the students allegedly assaulted was not identified.
    "What happened on the bus was not a 'hate crime,'" Wiley said. "The only person we heard uttering racial epithets was one of the defendants."
    The three women, who were not identified at the time, said a group of 10 to 12 white men assaulted them and used racial slurs, according to the letter from Jones.
    After the incident was reported, the hashtag #DefendBlackGirlsUAlbany appeared on social media.
    The university has approximately 17,000 students, with African-Americans making up 15% of the student body.