Two former University at Albany students who were convicted of making false police reports about a hate crime on a city bus were sentenced to probation Friday. The judge compared what the two women did to the story of the Boy who Cried Wolf. From the Times Union:
The possibility of jail time for Ariel Agudio and Asha Burwell loomed large over Friday’s sentencing in Albany County Court, where spectators and supporters of the women packed a standing room-only gallery. The Albany County Probation Department had recommended a split sentence for the women — time in jail followed by time on probation.
But Roger McDonough, the acting justice who presided over the eight-day trial in April and offered stern words for the women Friday, instead imposed a sentence of three years’ probation, 200 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine.
“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,” he said.
A third student involved in the situation made a plea deal for community service. The case stems from an incident that took place on a city bus in January 2016. The two women, both of whom are black, called 911 and reported they had been the victims of a race-based assault by a large group of white men. The case immediately drew massive attention. As I pointed out at last year, hundreds of people turned out for a rally to support the “victims.” Even Hillary Clinton chimed in on the story:
There's no excuse for racism and violence on a college campus. https://t.co/ADVghl4iEv -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 4, 2016
But it turned out their story wasn’t true. A detailed police investigation of the incident including a review of video shot from multiple angles made clear the three women were the aggressors. None of the white males accused of a hate crime ever struck the women. I’m quoting the police press release at length to show that this was not remotely a close call:
The video and audio evidence and the statement of every witness demonstrate that no male struck the three women. The evidence indicates they were actually the aggressors in the physical altercation, and that they continued to assault the victim despite the efforts of several passengers to stop them.
Investigators also found no evidence to support the initial allegations that these three women were targeted in any manner due to their race, and no evidence that racial slurs were directed toward them. All of the audio recordings examined by police were enhanced by the New York State Police crime lab to assist in hearing what was said on the bus.
“We took this incident very seriously and did a thorough and careful investigation,” said UPD Chief J. Frank Wiley. “The evidence shows that, contrary to how the defendants originally
portrayed things, these three individuals were not the victims of a crime. Rather, we allege that they are the perpetrators.”
“I especially want to point out that what happened on the bus was not a ‘hate crime.’ We spent a great deal of time carefully reviewing the audio recordings to determine whether any racial slurs were used. The only person we heard uttering racial epithets was one of the defendants. And it is important to note that no witness reported hearing any racial slurs directed at the defendants. And those witnesses were people from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.”
Perhaps the most damning evidence wasn’t the video or the testimony of witnesses but the statements caught on the 911 call from one of the women themselves. While waiting for the 911 call to connect to a dispatcher, one of the “victims” said, “I think it’s so funny … I just think it’s so funny how, like … I beat up a boy!” You can hear the audio of the call here.
Judge Roger McDonough let the two defendants have it, comparing them to the boy who cried wolf. From the Times Union:
“What is clear to this court after hearing all the testimony in trial and what you’ve said today is that you chose to cynically, deliberately, selfishly and dishonestly manipulate the village just like the boy who cried wolf,” he said. “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.”
Under the circumstances, it seems these former students (both have been expelled) could have faced a tougher sentence than just probation and community service. The assault charges for throwing punches were all dropped, despite the attack being caught on video.
What’s really worrisome about this story is that if the incident had taken place somewhere other than a bus with video from multiple angles, we would probably never know it was a hoax. In that case, I suspect these women would not have been expelled and would not be facing probation and community service. On the contrary, they would still be being lionized by the left as victims of racist violence.