Martese Johnson, the college student brutalized earlier this year after he was falsely accused of possessing a fake ID, filed a $3 million lawsuit against the state agency that attacked him.
The suit, filed earlier today, is the second high-profile lawsuit filed by a college student against the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) since last year.
Johnson a University of Virginia student, was at Trinity Irish pub enjoying time with friends on St. Patrick’s Day earlier this year.
A bouncer turned Johnson away, suspecting he had a fake ID when he tried to enter the popular nightspot.
Upon that, an ABC agent walked up behind Johnson and grabbed his arm without identifying himself. Johnson, startled at being grabbed from behind, pulled his arm away and continued walking, the lawsuit states.
That led to Johnson being brutalized and slammed to the ground by ABC officers and charged with resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force and profane swearing or intoxication in public.
Johnson’s ID was not fake.
Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman decided to drop the charges against Martese Johnson, citing that Johnson had not committed a crime, that he received an injury during the arrest and he was jailed overnight.
On Sept. 29, Attorney General Mark Herring announced an initiative to provide current and future law enforcement officers with opportunities for “contemporary, evidence-based training on topics including impartial policing, bias awareness, situational decision making, de-escalation, and use of force.”
The Virginia ABC has a history of lawsuits and inadequate training with former UVA student Elizabeth Daly suing the agency last year.
In April 2013, Daly was shopping at a Harris Teeter in Charlottesville and as she was leaving the store, undercover ABC agents arrested her under the pretense that the La Croix sparkling water she had was alcohol.
Moreover, one of the ABC officers that arrested Johnson was also present in Daly’s arrest. One of the officers tried to break the window of Daly’s window with a steel flashlight.
Daly sought $40 million in a civil lawsuit, but the case was eventually settled for more than $200,000 last year.
Marcus Martin, the UVA Vice President for Diversity and Equity sent the following University wide email:
“We are outraged by the brutality against a University of Virginia undergraduate student that occurred in the early hours Wednesday, March 18, 2015. This African American male student was injured on the Corner, after being stopped by Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) officers.
In March, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an Executive Order to improve law enforcement in the Virginia ABC.
“Recent events involving special agents of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) in Charlottesville have underscored longstanding concerns about the agency’s Bureau of Law Enforcement, and exposed the need for more extensive training and oversight.”
The lawsuit, which you can read here, states that Johnson received ten stitches from the incident, which resulted in permeant disfigurement and scarring.
The defendants named in the lawsuit are the ABC, ABC Director Shawn P. Walker and the three ABC agents involved in Johnson’s arrest: John S. Cielakie, Jared B. Miller and Thomas S. Custer.