Three women accused of falsely claiming they were victims of racial abuse and physical assault have been expelled from Albany University and will now face criminal charges.
Two of the women, Ariel Agudio and Asha Burwell, face charges of misdemeanor assault and falsely reporting an incident. A third, Alexis Briggs, is being charged on one count of misdemeanor assault.
The university’s president, Robert J. Jones, confirmed that Agudio and Burwell had been expelled, whilst Briggs has been suspended for two years, according to Fox News.
The young women had claimed white men physically assaulted them and hurled racial slurs whilst riding the university bus in January. However, on close inspection, investigators concluded that the alleged victims were in fact the aggressors, and the accused were in fact trying to break up the fight.
None of the women were present at a university disciplinary hearing, claiming a “conflict of interest” as the university could be asked to testify in criminal proceedings.
At the hearing, university faculty testified against the women, asserting they had instigated the fight and harmed the school’s reputation. As reported by the Albany Times-Union:
One witness was Inspector Paul Burlingame of the University Police Department, who cited video, audio, witness interviews, and more than 300 hours of investigation as he testified to the board that the three women started the fight.
“There is absolutely no evidence which supports Ms. Burwell’s version of events that the incident was precipitated by a female passenger hitting Ms. Burwell while Ms. Burwell was seated,” Burlingame said, “and in fact, there is no video evidence showing Ms. Burwell being struck by anyone at all.”
Because the incident was first reported as a hate crime, Burlingame testified that victims of the assault did not come forward at first as they feared for their safety.
Only when they learned there was video of the incident did they reach out, Burlingame said.
In March, the Times Union reported that a student widely reported to have left school after being threatened was never registered at the university this semester.
The only other witness at the hearing was by Joseph Brennan, a UAlbany vice president of communications and marketing, who testified that the school suffered “reputational harm” as a result of the conduct of the three women.
All three women are pleading not guilty to the charges and have meanwhile refused a plea deal requiring them to make a public apology, according to a local ABC affiliate. One of their supporters told a reporter for ABC News 10 that the video casting doubt on their original story is “doctored.”