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What you need to know for 02/23/2018

Student accused of lying about bus attack says UAlbany dismissal unfair


Student accused of lying about bus attack says UAlbany dismissal unfair

A decision to dismiss from the university one of the three women accused of making false allegations
Student accused of lying about bus attack says UAlbany dismissal unfair
SUNY Albany students, Ariel Agudio and Alexis Briggs, left to right, cross Morton Ave. to enter their arraignment in Albany City Court on charges of assault and falsely reporting an incident on February 28. Attorney Mark S. Mishler is seen at left.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

A decision to dismiss from the university one of the three women accused of making false allegations of a racially motivated attack must be overturned, the woman’s attorney argues in a recent court filing.

Ariel C. Agudio filed a petition in state Supreme Court in Albany County earlier this month calling her dismissal from the University at Albany improper and the product of an unfair school proceeding.

In the filing by Agudio’s attorney Mark Mishler, she contends the university prevented her from mounting a proper defense, denied her access to key documents and denied her the right to be represented in the internal proceeding by an attorney.

The university, Mishler wrote in the filing, “made the process a mockery of fairness and justice.”

The withheld documents, received later during the ongoing related criminal proceedings, showed discrepancies and inconsistencies in accounts and wrongful conduct on the part of others, Mishler argued.

The University at Albany issued a statement in response to the filing, saying “the process is an internal administrative procedure concerned with violations of institutional rules” and is not a court of law.

“The University is fully confident that the student conduct hearing which led to the dismissal of Ms. Agudio was conducted carefully, fairly and impartially,” the statement reads, “and was consistent with the procedures and protocols of our established disciplinary process.”

Agudio, 20, of Huntington, and two other women — Alexis Briggs, 21, of Elmira Heights and Asha Burwell, 20, of Huntington Station — drew widespread national attention, especially on social media, following their Jan. 30 allegations of a racially motivated attack on them by fellow riders on an early-morning CDTA bus ride.

Police investigated the allegations and concluded no racial attack on the women happened. Instead, police concluded the women were the aggressors.

Police charged Briggs, Agudio and Burwell in February with misdemeanors, accusing them of physically assaulting a 19-year-old woman from Congers, Rockland County, on the bus just after 1 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30.

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

Cases against Burwell and Agudio remain pending. Both have rejected offers that would have required them to plead guilty to misdemeanor third-degree falsely reporting an incident, as well as violation harassment.

Briggs has pleaded guilty to a non-criminal violation of disorderly conduct.

Agudio is challenging the university disciplinary proceeding that launched shortly after police concluded the allegations to be false.

Agudio did not participate in the process, concerned about its fairness, Mishler wrote.

Mishler argues the university should have turned over the witness statements so Agudio could mount a defense. The statements, he wrote, would have allowed her to challenge the university’s allegations by citing inconsistencies and actions of others.

Mishler wrote that the statements included “the confirmation that a white passenger had yelled at Ms. Agudio and her friends the racially charged and provocative statement along the lines of ‘go get a job’ and the admission from another passenger of having punched Ms. Agudio and having pulled out Ms. Agudio’s hair extensions.”

Mishler called the university’s decision arbitrary and capricious and a violation of law.

“The actions of (the university) in this case are particularly egregious as many of the most significant violations of proper and due process could have been easily avoided,” Mishler wrote.

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

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