UAlbany women accused of faking hate crime plead not guilty

The three women charged last week in the University at Albany alleged racial incident each pleaded n
SUNY Albany students, Ariel Agudio and Alexis Briggs walk into their arraignment in Albany City Court for for assault and falsely reporting an incident.
SUNY Albany students, Ariel Agudio and Alexis Briggs walk into their arraignment in Albany City Court for for assault and falsely reporting an incident.

The three women charged last week in the University at Albany alleged racial incident each pleaded not guilty Monday morning.

City Court Judge Rachel Kretser ordered each to remain free, but the two accused of making false reports to police must be under supervision of probation.

Kretser also committed to an expedited process, saying she’s not inclined to grant adjournments.

“This case really has already done enough damage in the community,” Kretser said during one arraignment. “It’s like an open wound and I want it resolved so that our community can begin to heal.”

The attorneys are due back in court March 29.

Police say that Ariel Agudio, 20, of Huntington, Alexis Briggs, 20, of Elmira Heights, and Asha Burwell, 20, of Huntington Station, physically assaulted a 19-year-old woman from Congers, Rockland County, on a CDTA bus just after 1 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 30.

Based on 911 calls Burwell and Agudio made in the early morning of Jan. 30, police say both women falsely claimed they were the victims of a racially motivated attack.

Agudio is charged with third-degree assault, third-degree falsely reporting an incident, third-degree attempted assault and fourth-degree attempted criminal mischief.

Briggs is charged with third-degree assault. Burwell faces one count each of third degree assault and falsely reporting an incident.

The allegations of a racial attack prompted a public outcry, but police concluded no racial attack on the women happened. Instead, they say the women were the aggressors.

All three women left with their attorneys following the appearance. None gave statements. Agudio is represented by attorney Mark Mishler; Burwell by attorney Frederick Brewington and Briggs by attorney Will Little.

Mishler has previously asked the public not to rush to judgment and said he believes Agudio will be vindicated.

In arguments on Burwell’s release status, attorney Brewington noted her parents in the courtroom and called Burwell a “very, very industrious woman.”

Kretser highlighted the false statement charges against Burwell and Agudio, saying that, if proven, they “do have a profound impact on the community.”

With that, she ordered Burwell and Agudio remain free, but under the supervision of the probation department. She allowed Briggs to remain free without supervision.

Agudio is accused of assaulting a 19-year-old bus rider named Mary Glisson, rushing to the area where Glisson sat, and climbing over a seat occupied by others. Agudio “did strike victim in the head with her left hand and then her right hand, multiple times,” according to court paperwork. Burwell is accused of striking Glisson in a similar manner.

Glisson suffered soft tissue damage to her neck, as well as swelling and bruising to her face, according to paperwork.

Agudio is also accused of trying to assault a bus rider named Robert McCarthy, 19, city of residence unavailable, who used his cellphone to record Agudio after the assault on Glisson, according to papers. Agudio allegedly knocked the man’s phone from his hands to the ground.

“The defendant did observe the victim recording her and using her left hand does strike the victim repeatedly about the head and face,” papers read.

The University at Albany officer filing the complaint also wrote that Agudio said on her 911 call “I beat up a boy.”

Agudio allegedly hit two other women who were uninjured. She faces violation harassment counts related to those women.

The falsely reporting an incident charges against Agudio and Burwell relate to statements Agudio and Burwell allegedly made to dispatchers that they and their friends had been victims of a racially motivated attack. The investigation showed the statements to be “false and baseless, and grossly different” than what actually happened, police said.

The allegations of a racial attack drew national attention and wide response on social media. But police last week concluded the racial allegations to be false.

Police charged the women last week after a three-week investigation that included interviews of 35 passengers on the bus, reviewing videotape from 12 security cameras on the bus, four videos taken by passengers, along with other evidence.

Police released bus surveillance video of the incident, as well as 911 recordings of calls they said Burwell and Agudio made.

The two women can be heard telling dispatchers their story of being attacked and called racial slurs. A voice identified as Agudio also told a dispatcher, “If it’s not dealt with the right way I’m going to call the news.”

University police said video and audio evidence, as well as each witness statement showed that no male struck the three women.

Police also stressed that the only person heard on recordings uttering a racial epithet was one of the defendants. No witness reported hearing any racial slurs directed at the women and police reported that witnesses they spoke to were from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.

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