Three blacks students at the University of Albany have been indicted for lying about a racist altercation on a city bus that went viral.
After a massive police investigation and a look at the camera footage revealed that not only was the allegation a hoax, but that the three girls were the aggressors, they face charges, the Times-Union is reporting.
Twenty-year-olds Ariel Agudio, Asha Burwell and Alexis Briggs will be arraigned Wednesday in County Court before Judge Stephen Herrick. They previously pleaded not guilty in March to similar charges in City Court.
The announcement of the indictment Monday by Soares’ office comes after negotiations last month broke down on a possible plea deal between prosecutors and the women’s lawyers that could have resolved the high-profile case that has polarized the campus.
Soares’ office sought to have the women to apologize as part of the plea agreement to the charges lodged in City Court.
Under the indictment, Agudio of Huntington on Long Island faces one charge of assault, three counts each of attempted assault and falsely reporting an incident, all misdemeanors, and three counts of harassment, all violations.
Burwell, who is also from Long Island, is charged with one misdemeanor count of assault, four misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting an incident and one count of harassment, a violation.
Briggs of Elmira Heights in Chemung County is charged with one misdemeanor count of assault and two misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting an incident.
The indictment alleges that around 1 a.m. Jan. 30, while aboard a CTDA bus on the UAlbany campus, the women struck and injured a 19-year-old female passenger.
The indictment also alleges Agudio repeatedly struck and attempted to injure a 19-year-old male passenger and attempted to hurt two other female passengers, ages 18 and 20.
Burwell also is charged with allegedly having physical contact with a 19-year-old male passenger.
The three also falsely reported the incident to law enforcement, the indictment states, after they got off the bus. They repeated the allegations in days following the incident that cast the school into the national spotlight and prompted a rally where Burwell appeared with Briggs and Agudio and tearfully demanded justice.
The confrontation sparked outrage on campus and prompted a rally amid charges the incident was racially motivated.
Speaking in general terms, several area defense lawyers discussed possible reasons the case was presented to a grand jury and will now be adjudicated in County Court instead of City Court.
Soares’ spokeswoman Cecilia Walsh declined to comment. Chief Assistant District Attorney David Rossi is handling the prosecution of the case.
Terence Kindlon cited the “bad blood” between Soares’ office and City Court Judge William Carter from 2012 over the case against four Occupy Albany protesters.
Carter, who is now running for county judge, wanted the matter to be prosecuted. Soares refused. The case was appealed to the state’s highest court before being thrown out.
That history between the two men “might be a factor of significance” and why Soares didn’t want to take his chances that Carter, one of two City Court jurists, might preside in the UAlbany bus matter, said Kindlon.
Schenectady-based defense lawyer Michael Horan said Soares might present a case to a grand jury to determine if a felony was committed. “It’s not as simple as who started a fight because the victim could assault a person who started the fight and go beyond the point of defending themselves,” added Horan. “It’s another layer of protection especially because it’s such a sensitive case.”