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Arraignment In CDTA Bus Assault Case

Three UAlbany women involved in a CDTA bus attack in January were arraigned this morning in Albany Police Court.

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Credit WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas
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Asha Burwell and her attorney before Judge Rachel Kretser in Albany City Police Court. February 29, 2016.

The three University at Albany students who are accused of a filing a false report of a racially-motivated attack on a CDTA bus appeared this morning in Albany Police Court.

Asha Burwell, Alexis Briggs and Ariel Agudio all pleaded not guilty to assault charges.

The three 20-year-olds had no comment as they entered Judge Rachel Kretser's courtroom.

Burwell pleaded not guilty to charges of assault in the third degree, harassment in the second degree and falsely reporting an incident.

Burwell is also charged with allegedly having physical contact with an 18-year-old female bus passenger. The judge said that given the lack of any criminal history, bail did not seem appropriate.

Burwell was released on condition she adheres to a 9 p.m. curfew while residing at her parents’ downstate home. She may be out beyond 9 p.m. for work purposes only. UAlbany officials say Burwell is still enrolled, but could not confirm whether she is now taking distance-learning classes.

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Credit WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas
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Alexis Briggs and her attorney appear before Judge Rachel Kretser in Albany City Police Court. February 29, 2016.

The case has brought national attention to the university after the initial reports that the three women were attacked and called racial slurs. Large campus rallies followed.

But officials say surveillance video, pored over for weeks, in the end didn’t show that.

Speaking with reporters Friday afternoon, UAlbany President Robert Jones promised the college will deal swiftly with any wrongdoers.  "And I continue to feel very strong that anyone who is found responsible for their actions will be held accountable through the processes that are available. The University Conduct Code is a process for holding our students accountable and I want to emphasize, I can't emphasize enough that our code applies to each and every one of our students."

Briggs was charged with assault in the third degree. Her attorney entered a not guilty plea. She was released on her own recognizance.

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Credit WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas
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Ariel Agudio and attorney Mark Mishler in Albany City Police Court. February 29, 2016.

Agudio was charged with assault and filing a false report. It also is alleged in the criminal complaints filed Monday that Agudio attempted to cause physical injury to a 19-year-old male passenger, while also allegedly attempting to damage his property.  It is also alleged that Agudio had physical contact with two other female bus passengers, ages 18 and 20.

Attorney Mark Mishler assured Judge Kretser his client has not been in trouble in the past and is still currently a UAlbany student.

Kretser says that even though the charges are not felonies, the court considers them serious. She noted the case has "done enough damage."

After the court session, media scrambled for pictures and sound of the trio. They got their pictures but very little in the way of comment.  "The media is acting inappropriately."

The group Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration published a letter on its website praising the three defendants. Quoting now, "We’d like to thank you for inspiring so many of us with your resilience, dignity, strength, poise and grace amidst such adversity."  The group also criticized the district attorney's involvement in the case, calling David Soares guilty of "blatant misconduct and prejudicial incompetence."  Soares’ office did not have any comment.

The students are due back in court March 29th.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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