Virginia ABC, UVA grad come to resolution after 2015 bloody arrest

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia ABC and Martese Johnson have come to an agreement, which ends litigation on both sides for a 2015 incident outside of a Charlottesville bar.

Johnson, a graduate from the University of Virginia, suffered injuries during the March 2015 incident when he was arrested by officers with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), while still a student at the school.

The statement says that both parties have agreed to no admission of liability or wrongdoing, and both sides will also not discuss the case beyond the joint statement, which read:

“The Parties and ABC have reached a mutually agreeable compromise and resolution of the lawsuit. In the Parties’ and ABC’s view, the interests of justice and the long term interests of the community are best served, not through continued and protracted litigation, but by taking the events as an opportunity to educate the public and foster constructive dialogue between ordinary citizens,
law enforcement officers, and public officials concerning police and citizen relationships in a diverse community. The Parties also desire to avoid the significant expenses, risks, and uncertainties associated with continued and protracted litigation. This agreement includes no admission of liability or wrongdoing by either party.”

The incident started when Johnson, 20, was turned away from a bar during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. He was under the legal drinking age.

Virginia ABC agents approached him and decided to “further detain the individual based on their observations and further questioning,” the agency said.

“In the course of an arrest being made, the arrested individual sustained injuries.”

Johnson’s attorney gave a more detailed, and slightly conflicting, account:

He said his client was standing on a sidewalk when an employee of the bar approached him and asked for identification. Johnson presented his valid ID card issued in 2011. The employee then asked for his ZIP code, and Johnson recited the ZIP code of his mother’s current address, rather than the ZIP code on the ID, his attorney said.

Nevertheless, agents questioned Johnson about being in possession of a fake ID, Daniel Watkins told reporters.

“Just before handcuffing him, police took Martese to the ground, striking his head on the pavement and causing him to bleed profusely from the gash on his head,” the attorney said. He said Johnson’s head wound required 10 stitches.

Hundreds of University of Virginia students of different races protested in the days following the incident.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe called for an independent investigation by Virginia State Police to see whether the alcohol control agents used excessive force, which followed with an administrative review and a criminal investigation.

Johnson at the time was a third-year student double-majoring in Italian and media studies. He also held a variety of leadership positions.