A judge has sentenced two now-expelled black University of Albany students who falsely alleged that they were victims of race-based hate crimes on a public bus to probation, community service and fines.
The hoax-perpetrating students, Ariel Agudio and Asha Burwell, won’t spend a day in jail.
Roger McDonough, the Albany County Court judge who presided over the students’ jury trial in April, issued the sentence on Friday in front of a standing-room-only courtroom crowd, reports the Albany Times Union.
McDonough sentenced Agudio and Burwell — each — to 200 hours of community service and three years of probation. Each former SUNY Albany student must also pay a $1,000 fine.
The ruling disregarded the Albany County probation department’s recommendation of prison time and then probation.
“There have been significant consequences already for what has happened, but I don’t think there’s any benefit in sentencing you to a jail term — no benefit for society and no benefit for you,” the judge said, according to the Times Union.
Three then-Albany students — Agudio, Burwell and Alexis Briggs — were involved in a bus brawl that led to the phony hate crime claim in the wee hours of Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016.
Briggs, Burwell and Agudio swore they were victims of a hate-fueled mob assault on the bus. The trio claimed they began arguing with a group of 10 to 12 white men and women, who were also SUNY Albany students. The argument escalated into a torrent of racial slurs, they claimed.
“I just got jumped on a bus while people hit us and called us the ‘n’ word,'” Burwell declared on Twitter. “NO ONE helped us.” Burwell suggested the attack was racially motivated.
The racially-charged allegations sparked immediate outrage on campus. Hundreds of students gathered on campus for a protest. They demanded justice. They tied the incident to the national Black Lives Matter movement. SUNY Albany president Robert Jones cut an off-campus trip short to return and pledge to hold the perpetrators “fully responsible.”
The social media hashtag #DefendBlackGirlsUAlbany was created to stand in solidarity with the women.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton got into the act, tweeting a link to an article covering the story days after the incident occurred. “There’s no excuse for racism and violence on a college campus.” wrote Clinton. (RELATED: Hillary Hoaxed: Black Students Clinton Backed Charged Over Phony Hate Crime Claim)
Burwell and her comrades might have gotten away with their claims if it wasn’t for those darn 12 different cameras on the bus at the time that were able to capture the incident in detail. Several of the cameras captured audio.
Briggs, Burwell and Agudio originally faced a litany of charges including assault, harassment and falsely reporting a criminal incident. (RELATED: Indictments Are In For The 3 Black Students Who Hoaxed Hillary With Phony Hate Crime Claim)
Albany County district attorney David Soares said that the various cameras on the bus proved that the students were the aggressors and that their claims of racial victimization are entirely fabricated.
Agudio originally faced a single count of assault, three counts of attempted assault, three counts of harassment and a count of falsely reporting an incident.
Burwell faced an assault charge, a harassment charge and four counts of falsely reporting an incident.
Briggs, who entered a guilty plea and apologized in exchange for a sentence of community service, faced an assault count and a pair of counts for falsely reporting an incident.
Prosecutors say the victims of the assaults committed by Briggs, Burwell and Agudio were an 18-year-old female, a 19-year-old female, a 20-year-old female and a 19-year-old male.
After the women exited the bus, prosecutors say, they called 911 to report that they had been victims of a racially-motivated mob assault.
The Times-Union has published audio of that 911 call, which features a female voice identified as Agudio saying — prior to speaking to an operator — “I beat up a boy” and “I had three bitches down.”
“I’ve seen the video. The jurors saw the video — all the video from the bus,” Judge McDonough told Agudio and Burwell, according to the Times Union.
“What occurred on that bus is nothing close to what you reported, Ms. Agudio and Ms. Burwell.”
McDonough also told Agudio that she sounded “cavalier and certainly gleeful” in the 911 call. He noted that she threatened to “contact the news.”
“You manipulated law enforcement. You manipulated the UAlbany community. You manipulated the larger community. You manipulated the media. What your motivation for it — I can’t be sure.”
The district attorney had attempted to work out plea deals with attorneys for all three students. The plea deals would have included public apologies.
David Rossi, an assistant district attorney, told Judge McDonough that his office was not seeking jail time for Agudio and Burwell.
“This case has never been about jail for us,” Rossi said, according to the Times Union. “It has been about taking responsibility and setting the record straight so the community would heal. The defendants have chosen this path instead. Even now, all we’re asking for is an apology.”
Attorneys for Agudio and Burwell insisted that it would be wrong for their clients to apologize because they believed they had been victimized by racial hate crimes on the bus.
Agudio and Burwell have filed notices to appeal their sentences.