Lawyer contends no justification for U.Va. student’s arrest

Free Press staff, wire reports | 5/1/2015, 10:44 a.m. | Updated on 5/5/2015, 8 p.m.
State ABC agents charged University of Virginia honor student Martese Johnson with public intoxication even though the agents did not ...
Mr. Johnson


State ABC agents charged University of Virginia honor student Martese Johnson with public intoxication even though the agents did not believe he was drunk, according to their statements. Instead, they believed he might be using a false ID.

A State Police report has been completed on the controversial and bloody March 18 arrest of the 20-year-old, African-American third-year student from Chicago that shocked the state.

The thick report is now in the hands of Dave Chapman, the Charlottesville commonwealth’s attorney. Mr. Chapman is still studying the report and has not yet made the report public.

Mr. Johnson’s attorney, Daniel Watkins of the Williams Mullen law firm based in Richmond, has yet to see the State Police report, but expects to be able to do so before Mr. Johnson’s court hearing in late May.

A statement issued by Mr. Watkins’ law firm states: “We have already reviewed the reports from the arresting ABC agents and the local police on the scene, and our position remains that the (agents) lacked legal justification to arrest or brutalize young Martese.”

The case grabbed headlines after Mr. Johnson was injured by white Alcoholic Beverage Control agents during his arrest outside a pub in downtown Charlottesville.

He was slammed to the brick sidewalk by the ABC agents, and his head was gashed. Ten stitches were required to close his wound.

The case drew attention after pictures of Mr. Johnson’s bloody face spread through social media. Outrage over the agents’ treatment of Mr. Johnson prompted Gov. Terry McAuliffe to order the State Police to conduct the investigation.

The governor also ordered changes in training, policy and procedures governing ABC agents, whose reputation has been tarnished by repeated allegations of brutality. And he set up a commission to consider ABC police operations.

According to Williams Mullen, the state police report runs several hundred pages and includes several hours of interviews, including one with Mr. Johnson on March 26.

The report also contains the statements of the ABC agents involved in the early morning arrest and from University of Virginia and Charlottesville police officers.

According to previous reports, the ABC agents targeted Mr. Johnson after he was turned away from a bar to find out if he might be using a fake ID.

Along with public intoxication, Mr. Johnson also was charged with obstruction of justice without force. The charge relates to his alleged actions when agents handcuffed him.

Witnesses and others at the scene have said that Mr. Johnson cooperated with the agents and showed them his ID before he was grabbed and slammed to the sidewalk.

Mr. Johnson is due in Charlottesville General District Court on May 28. Mr. Chapman could decline to prosecute based on the findings in the report.