It took nearly two years, but a North Carolina judge dismissed a case against a man who was arrested for drinking a can of Arizona Iced Tea in a parking lot of a liquor store.
And only because it was captured on video.
Otherwise, the cop’s word would have been treated as gospel, resulting in a conviction of trespassing and resisting arrest against Christopher Lamont Beatty, a former soldier who is also a hip hop musician known as Xstravagant.
But even despite the video evidence, prosecutors along with his own lawyer, tried to get him to agree to a plea deal where he would accept probation and community service.
In other words, they wanted him to admit to a crime he did not commit without even having the chance to be tried for that crime.
But he took it all the way to trial, taking his chances in front of a judge.
The case was dismissed Thursday.
The incident took place April 27, 2013 when Beatty was standing in the parking lot of a state-controlled liquor store in Fayetteville recording a music video. Better known as ABC Liquor, the store is operated by the Cumberland County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
They even have their own police force, which employs a man named Rick Libero, who became suspicious when he spotted Beatty drinking a can of Arizona Iced Tea in the parking lot.
Dressed in street clothes and never pulling out a badge, Libero walked up to Beatty and demanded to see the can of iced tea to ensure it was not an alcoholic beverage.
Beatty held it up for him, allowing him to read the ingredients, but Libero insisted on holding the can.
When Beatty refused to hand the can over, Libero ordered him off the property – still having not identified himself as an officer or showing a badge.
When Beatty insisted on seeing a badge, Libero lifted up his shirt to show a badge on his belt, but quickly placed the shirt back down on it.
Libero then accosted Beatty, knocking him to the ground and handcuffing him, all while accusing him of trespassing, even though Beatty had purchased the can of iced tea from the very store that employs Libero.
The video went viral, exposing a sheer violation of Beatty’s Constitutional rights, but the courts insisted on trying to stick it to him anyway.
According to a Fay Observer article from last year:
Lawyers have worked out a deal for a Fayetteville man whose video-recorded arrest in a state-owned liquor store parking lot last year went viral on the Internet and made national headlines.
But the defendant, 28-year-old Christopher Lamont “Xstravagant” Beatty, is reluctant to take the deal.According to a court document, the deal would punish Beatty with probation and community service on misdemeanor allegations that he was trespassing and resisted a public officer. After a year, the charges would be dismissed and leave Beatty’s record clear of a conviction through an arrangement called a deferred prosecution.
The case is scheduled to be heard in Cumberland County District Court on June 5. District Attorney Billy West said his office has approved the deal.
Beatty said he doesn’t like it.
“It would get it dismissed at the end, but I would still have to take responsibility for my actions, and I felt like I did nothing wrong,” Beatty said.
Beatty’s lawyer recommended he take the deal, which goes to show you how ineffective lawyers can be.
After all, he could have managed to get himself on probation and community service without the help of an attorney.
But Beatty refused the deal and the case went before a judge last week.
The judge finally put an end to the insanity on Thursday.
On Thursday, Cumberland County District Court Judge Lou Olivera agreed with defense lawyer Allen Rogers’ motion to dismiss the case based on a lack of reasonable suspicion for a stop.
Olivera ruled the stop was unconstitutional, and therefore, all evidence gathered from the stop was inadmissible. He referred to the legal metaphor “fruit of the poisonous tree,” which is used to describe evidence obtained illegally according to law.
“I’m astounded this is finally over,” said Beatty, a former staff sergeant with Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division.
The case had been repeatedly delayed over the last 18 months.
“There’s an unfortunate culture in this community in relation to civil rights. Where a police officer, like Mr. (Rick) Libero, can order someone to hand over his can,” Rogers said.
During the trial, Libero took the witness stand and said he was suspicious by the way Beatty was carrying the can and that he was being evasive with the can, even though the video shows Beatty holding the can six inches in front of Libero’s face, who at that point, could have been any random stranger considering he had not identified himself.