N.Y. college students accused of fabricating racially motivated attack

(CNN Photo)

(CNN) — Three New York college students who said they were targets of a racially motivated attack face multiple charges for what prosecutors are calling a false claim.

A grand jury on Monday indicted Ariel Agudio, Asha Burwell and Alexis Briggs, all 20, each on a charge of third-degree assault and multiple counts of falsely reporting an incident, the Albany District Attorney’s Office said.

Agudio and Burwell also face charges of harassment. Agudio also was charged with two counts of attempted assault.

The State University of New York at Albany rallied behind the students, who are black, when they came forward with claims that a group of white men and women attacked them on January 30 in a confrontation on a city bus. Students held a rally and university President Robert J. Jones said in a letter to students and faculty that he was “deeply concerned, saddened and angry about this incident.”

Others came to their defense on social media using the hashtag #DefendBlackGirlsUAlbany. The People of Color Caucus issued a letter in support of them.

But university police said an investigation revealed that no one used racial epithets against the women. Instead, they assaulted another passenger and falsely reported the incident.

“What happened on the bus was not a ‘hate crime,'” University Police Chief Frank Wiley said in February. “The only person we heard uttering racial epithets was one of the defendants.”

Attorneys for the three women did not return CNN’s calls requesting comment Monday afternoon.

The three women pleaded not guilty in February to charges of assault and harassment. Two of them also pleaded not guilty to charges of falsely reporting the incident.

Agudio’s lawyer, Mark Mishler, said in February the charges were unwarranted.

“It is also unfortunate that some in the media and public appear to have reached a conclusion as to what occurred in this incident without actually having the information needed in order to reach such a conclusion,” Misher said in the statement.

“Ms. Agudio, an exemplary young woman and an excellent student who has never previously been in legal trouble, asks that people not rush to judgment in this matter.”

The defendants’ arraignment on the grand jury charges is scheduled for Wednesday in Albany County Court.

CNN’s Laura Ly, Sarah Jorgensen, Lauren del Valle, Ray Sanchez, and Haimy Assefa contributed to this report.

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