Soares: An apology would have avoided trial

April 27, 2017 07:22 PM

ALBANY - Legal experts and community leaders continue to evaluate the full impact of Wednesday's split verdict in the CDTA bus trial. Two young woman, former UAlbany students, are facing the possibility of jail time, even though District Attorney David Soares says there never should have been a trial.

Soares says he's still extremely angry over the "immeasurable harm" he believes Ariel Agudio and Asha Burwell created in the community, not the least of which he says is the "doubt, cynicism, and suspicion" that might arise in the future toward a person with a legitimate claim.

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Even though a jury decided that Ariel Agudio and Asha Burwell were guilty of making up a story about being victims of a racial attack on a CDTA bus 15 months ago, their attorneys were seeing the glass half full after the verdict late Wednesday afternoon, relieved that there had also been five acquittals involving charges of assault and harassment.

"Many of the people that did lose heart initially need to understand that in part now they have been fully vindicated," said Frederick Brewington, attorney for Burwell. "These young ladies who said all along that they had been victimized on the bus and they were not the ones that assaulted or harassed anyone has been made to be clearly true by the verdict of this jury."

"The trial could have been avoided had the DA's office acted reasonably from the beginning," said Mark Mishler, Agudio's attorney. "They treated this as if it were the crime of the century from the beginning. It's not even a crime in our opinion."

Albany County District Attorney David Soares has a different opinion.

"We felt we had an obligation to present the truth," Soares stated, "Any time we have an outcome in the criminal justice system it's not about pleasing us. We don't walk into the room and high five one another. On the other side of all these cases, there are victims and there are real life experiences."

Soares says he never wanted to prosecute the case, but he feels he had no choice.

"This case would have ended over a year ago if these young ladies had availed themselves and apologized to the community ," he said. "We went where the evidence took us and it took us to where three young ladies in no uncertain terms made up a story and were lying about what happened."

"I thought the jury got it right," said Alice Green, of the Center for Law & Justice in Albany, and who was a daily spectator at the trial. "I thought the defense did a great job. They planted the reasonable doubt which was the best thing you could do, and I also though the jury members were conscientious."

Green also believes Soares was over aggressive to pursue the case.

"I think the community would have appreciated an effort by the DA to resolve this before it got to the point that it did," Green said, "I don't think any of us will ever know what happened exactly. I don't think we know who threw the first punch. I don't think we know what was going on in their own minds."

But because what began on a late night CDTA bus ride on January 30, 2016 and reached the point of trial, Agudio and Burwell were found guilty of filing false reports, which means the jury thought they lied about being victims of a racial attack, but acquitted them of assault and harassment charges.

"We knew those counts were difficult," said David Rossi, Chief Assistant Albany County District Attorney, who prosecuted the case, "What was most important to us was showing that their story was false."

Davia Newell assisted Rossi in the prosecution.

"Being a black woman in this community and seeing the impact that these allegations had on the community, I think it was important to prosecute this case," Newell stated, "I was angry and I think a lot of people felt how could this happen? And then I learn it was not the truth, the impact has been devastating."

Burwell and Agudio will be sentenced June 16th. Each misdemeanor count of falsely reporting carries a penalty of up to one year in jail.


Dan Levy

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