In March, 20-year-old University of Virginia student Martese Johnson was arrested and brutalized by white Alcohol and Beverage Control agents on the main drag of bars near campus. Last week, the Virginia state police completed their investigation on Johnson’s arrest, as ordered by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.*
The report of several hundred pages has yet to be released to the public, and may not be. The law firm representing Johnson released a statement that Johnson’s attorney Daniel Watkins “expects to be given access to the materials in the next couple of weeks. We have already reviewed the reports from the arresting ABC agents and the local police on the scene and our position remains that the police lacked justification to arrest or brutalize young Martese.” The firm has maintained what bystander accounts have said from the beginning: that Johnson cooperated with ABC agents after they targeted him for suspected use of a fake ID (Johnson did not have a fake ID on his person, as was reported erroneously from hearsay in my initial post on the incident and in other media outlets).
“The conversation resulted in my client being thrown to the ground, his head hitting the pavement, the officer’s knees pressed into his back, his face and skull bleeding and needing surgery,” Watkins added. “All this over two alleged offenses, one a misdemeanor charge of Obstruction of Justice without force and two, Profane Swearing and/or Public Intoxication — which upon conviction requires only the payment of a fine.”
Despite the fact that Johnson cooperated before being assaulted—and then subsequently passed a breathalyzer test—the ABC agents charged him with obstruction and “profane swearing and/or intoxication” anyway; he was also chained the night of his arrest.
The UVA student body has generally rallied in support of Johnson, protesting against the undue force from the ABC agents, who are notorious in Charlottesville for being physically aggressive in their pursuit of Alcohol Justice: in 2013, for example, undercover ABC agents stalked a young woman to her car after she bought seltzer (could’ve been beer though, am I right guys) at the grocery store, banging on her windows and eventually drawing a gun on her after she panicked.
*Update: The earlier headline on this post, as well as the first two paragraphs, reflected an incorrect report from the Richmond Free Press that the Virginia state police report had been released to Daniel Watkins, who had reported findings that Johnson’s charges were false. This is a significant error and we regret it.
Screenshot of Johnson at his March court date via ABC
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