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UVA Student Arrest Sparks Controversy

Posted: Updated: Apr 01, 2015 05:03 PM
Photo sent with email from Concerned Black Students Photo sent with email from Concerned Black Students
Martese Johnson Booking Photo Martese Johnson Booking Photo
Photo of scene from balcony of Trinity Irish Pub Photo of scene from balcony of Trinity Irish Pub
Still photo from video sent by Concerned Black Students Still photo from video sent by Concerned Black Students
Martese Johnson. Photo courtesy of UVA Summer Orientation Leaders 2014 website. http://www.virginia.edu/orientation/summer/orientationleaders.html Martese Johnson. Photo courtesy of UVA Summer Orientation Leaders 2014 website. http://www.virginia.edu/orientation/summer/orientationleaders.html
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Virginia's Alcoholic Beverage Control is coming under fire from Governor McAuliffe, among others, for the arrest of a University of Virginia student early Wednesday morning on the UVA corner.

The incident happened after midnight Wednesday in front of Trinity Irish Pub on University Avenue. A picture taken from the crowd shows a man on the ground with a bloodied face. An email that was signed "Concerned Black Students" says Johnson wasn't allowed into the bar and found himself suddenly flung to the ground and arrested.

A statement from ABC says agents were patrolling University Avenue early Wednesday morning when they saw a man stopped at the door of Trinity Irish Pub and not let in. ABC says agents approached 20-year-old Martese Johnson and wanted to detain him for questioning after being denied entry to the bar. ABC says Johnson was injured during the arrest.  They say he was taken to a hospital for treatment.

According to court documents, UVA third-year student Martese Johnson was arrested by Alcohol and Beverage Control special agent J. Miller on charges of obstructing justice and profane swearing or intoxication in public. On the arrest record, Miller wrote “Def. was very agitated and belligerent but no previous criminal history.” Johnson was released from jail Wednesday morning on a $1,500 bond and will have a court hearing March 26.

Governor Terry McAuliffe has been in touch with UVA President Teresa Sullivan on the case. The governor is calling on Virginia State Police to do an independent investigation into the use of force in the incident. (See statement below).

University of Virginia President Sullivan issued a statement (see below) Wednesday afternoon, in it she calls for witnesses to come forward.  "As the investigation unfolds, eyewitnesses will play an essential role in shedding light on the details of this incident. I urge students and other members of our community who witnessed the incident or have other direct knowledge of it to come forward. Please contact the Virginia State Police at 804-674-2000 immediately," she wrote.

Attorney General Mark Herring issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying "In these situations it's critical that we get all of the facts about exactly what happened as quickly as possible. I commend Governor McAuliffe for his swift decision to ask the Virginia State Police to investigate this situation."

The ABC special agents involved in Johnson's arrest have been placed on administrative duty while this case is investigated.

This is not the first time the ABC has come under fire for its action involving a UVA student. The ABC instituted policy changes following an undercover sting outside the Harris Teeter on Barracks Road in Charlottesville in 2013. Undercover agents arrested UVA student Elizabeth Daly when they mistook sparkling water for beer. The charges were later dropped and the student's record expunged. Click here for full coverage of the Daly case.

Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Statement:

Following is a statement issued by Virginia ABC regarding an incident involving a UVA student early this morning in Charlottesville, Virginia:

While monitoring licensed establishments on University Avenue in the City of Charlottesville, uniformed Virginia ABC special agents arrested a 20-year-old male early on the morning of March 18.

The individual was charged with Public Intoxication and Obstruction of Justice in an incident that occurred at approximately 12:45 a.m. on March 18 in the 1500 block of University Avenue. The uniformed ABC Agents observed and approached the individual after he was refused entry to a licensed establishment. A determination was made by the agents to further detain the individual based on their observations and further questioning.

In the course of an arrest being made, the arrested individual sustained injuries. The individual received treatment for his injuries at a local hospital and was released.

Governor McAuliffe has requested that Virginia State Police conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances of the arrest, including use of force. Virginia ABC will provide whatever information or assistance is requested by Virginia State Police.

Virginia ABC is restricting the Special Agents involved in the incident to administrative duties while the investigation is underway.
 

Email from Concerned Black Students:

This morning Martese Johnson emerged with a head injury requiring 10 stitches. He was brutalized by Virginia ABC law enforcement outside of Trinity Irish Pub. His face was bloodied. His body was bruised.

Outside of the doors of Trinity Irish Pub, a mass of University students bore witness to the officer's animalistic, insensitive, and brute handling of Martese. He was left with his blood splattered on the pavement of University Avenue.

Today, we are reminded of the gruesome reality that we are not immune to injustice; as University students, we are not impervious to the brutality that has reeled on news cycles around the country. We have marched and shouted that we are Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, but the proximity of this morning's brutality to a member of our community has deepened that wound. It is no longer happening only on national television--it is a reality here and now at the University of Virginia that we must face as a collective.

After Martese was denied entry to the bar, he found himself suddenly flung to the ground. The brutish force used resulted in his head and bodily injuries. His treatment was unprovoked as he did not resist questioning or arrest. In confusion, with blood painting his face and creating a pool on the bricks of the corner, he yelled out for mercy.

Though he lay bleeding and crying out, officers continued to hold him to the pavement, pinning him down, twisting his arm, with knees to his back until he was handcuffed.

As students pleaded with officers to lift Martese from the ground they were pushed away, and some were even handcuffed and threatened with possible arrest if they did not leave the scene.

We demand there be a swift and thorough investigation on the state, local, and University levels. We have seen what happens at the University when we allow problems we have long known exist to be handled quietly, so we will not be quiet. We demand noise from each other, noise from professors, noise from administrators. Martese, like any other student at this university, like any other person in this country and in this world, deserves more than our uproar: he deserves follow through and intentional action.

Look forward to a follow up email regarding further plans and actions.

Sincerely,
Concerned Black Students
 

University of Virginia Police Statement:

UPD and CPD were called to assist with a physical disorder on University Avenue by a Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Agent. When UPD officers arrived on scene, the ABC Agent had an individual in custody and UPD assisted CPD in securing the scene.  For additional information related to the incident I will need to direct you to the Virginia ABC.

Charlottesville Police Statement:

Charlottesville police got a call about 1 a.m., March 18 for a disorder on the corner with a large crowd gathering. Local ABC agents had an individual already in custody. An injury resulted. CPD dispersed the crowd and sought medical attention for the victim.

Office of Governor Terry McAuliffe Statement:

Below is a statement on Governor McAuliffe's request for an independent Virginia State Police investigation into a Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control arrest last night in Charlottesville in which a 20 year-old student was injured:

"Governor McAuliffe is concerned by the reports of this incident and has asked the Secretary of Public Safety to initiate an independent Virginia State Police investigation into the use of force in this matter. The Governor's office has been in contact with University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan and local law enforcement and will continue to monitor this situation closely as the investigation proceeds."

Brian Coy
Office of Governor Terry McAuliffe

Statement from Attorney General Mark Herring:

RICHMOND (March 18, 2015)--Attorney General Mark R. Herring issued the following statement regarding Governor Terry McAuliffe's decision to order a Virginia State Police investigation into last night's arrest of a student in Charlottesville: "In these situations it's critical that we get all of the facts about exactly what happened as quickly as possible. I commend Governor McAuliffe for his swift decision to ask the Virginia State Police to investigate this situation."

University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan Statement:

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

I write to express my deep concern about an incident that occurred on The Corner early this morning and to provide information about immediate steps that I have taken in response.

At about 12:45 a.m., one of our students was injured while Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents were attempting to take him into custody on the sidewalk in front of Trinity Irish Pub. University Police and Charlottesville Police arrived on the scene shortly after the incident occurred. We have not yet clarified all of the details surrounding this event, but we are seeking to do so as quickly as possible.

This morning I met with Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo and University Police Chief Mike Gibson in an effort to learn more about the incident. Furthermore, because ABC is a state agency, I contacted the Governor's office to ask for an independent investigation of the incident. In response, the Governor has asked the Secretary of Public Safety to initiate an independent Virginia State Police investigation into the use of force in this matter.

As the investigation unfolds, eyewitnesses will play an essential role in shedding light on the details of this incident. I urge students and other members of our community who witnessed the incident or have other direct knowledge of it to come forward. Please contact the Virginia State Police at 804-674-2000 immediately.

The safety and security of our students will always be my primary concern, and every member of our community should feel safe from the threat of bodily harm and other forms of violence. Today, as UVA students, faculty, and staff who share a set of deeply held values, we stand unified in our commitment to seeking the truth about this incident. And we stand united in our belief that equal treatment and equal justice are among our fundamental rights under the law.

Teresa A. Sullivan
President

Statement from Marcus L. Martin, the UVA Vice President for Diversity and Equity, and Maurice Apprey, the Dean of African-American Affairs:

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

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. His head was slammed into the hard pavement with excessive force. The student required medical evaluation and treatment at the UVa Hospital Emergency Department.  This was wrong and should not have occurred. In the many years of our medical, professional and leadership roles at the University, we view the nature of this assault as highly unusual and appalling based on the information we have received.

This incident is now being handled at the highest level of the University and the State of Virginia. We have spoken with student leaders and are sensitive to the collective remorse and reactions of the University and community.  We are asking everyone to exercise sound judgment and discretion, as we seek to protect the student's rights and privacy.   The Office for Diversity and Equity and the Office of African-American Affairs (OAAA) are available to provide support. This evening, the Office of African-American Affairs (OAAA) will be open until 8:00 pm to provide support.  As we wait to learn more about what happened last night, please know you can call us to talk about this situation and your concerns.

Violence against an individual, no matter the color of his or her skin, gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, is inexcusable and appalling. If you are the victim of bias, racism, hazing, or sexual misconduct please report the incident to the Just Report It system available at http://www.virginia.edu/justreportit/. Our students have the right to a safe environment in which to obtain their education. We are deeply concerned about the safety of all students, faculty, staff, and community members.

Sincerely,
Marcus L. Martin, M.D.,
Vice President for Diversity & Equity
Professor of Emergency Medicine

Maurice Apprey, Ph.D., D.M., FIPA,
Dean, African-American Affairs
Professor of Psychiatry

Black Student Alliance Statement:

In light of the recent events that have transpired in the past day, the Black Student Alliance supports the members of The Black Dot group in their call for a mass meeting in Clark Hall 108, at 8pm tonight. We, like any good-hearted person in our community, are hurting right now. We are saddened; we are angry; and we are searching for answers. All of our feelings are valid.

In a situation like this the first step in a traumatizing experience is to provide support and love for those affected. Martese is a student; he is an active community member; he is a cousin; and a brother; and a son. He was treated like no one, four-legged or otherwise, should be, and this meeting is a chance to reaffirm his humanity.

It is also important to recognize that could have been any of us. Martese was in an area in which we have all at some point been. He was abused in the worst way in an area that, due to recent safety concerns, has increased security. Martese was not secure, and we may not have been, either.

Lastly, it is essential that at this time all those who are concerned, sad, angry, hurt, confused, or otherwise come together as a collective to ensure that we are uniform in our understanding of what has occurred, so that any further action we take is informed and fruitful action.

With all this in mind, Martese has requested the presence of his friends and his allies in this matter at tonight's meeting. Following the open sharing segment of the meeting, there will be a discourse regarding where we go from here. Today, we are ALL concerned black students, and so we hope to see you all in attendance.

In Solidarity,
The Black Student Alliance

Statement from attorneys representing Martese Johnson:

Richmond, VA (March. 18, 2015) – Williams Mullen has released the following statement by Daniel P. Watkins regarding his client, University of Virginia student Martese Johnson:

On March 18, 2015, Charlottesville Police charged 20-year old Martese Johnson with two misdemeanors: 1) obstruction of justice without force and 2) profane swearing and/or intoxication in public. The charges were filed after a Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officer and local police confronted Mr. Johnson near “the Corner,” a popular off-campus social hub near the University of Virginia. Contrary to early police reports, Mr. Johnson has not been accused of possessing false identification.

“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,” Mr. Watkins said. “This morning he received ten stitches at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Fortunately, Martese's physical wounds are beginning to heal.”

Mr. Johnson is a third-year student at the University of Virginia, double majoring in Italian and Media Studies. He holds numerous leadership positions on grounds, including Vice Chair for Community Relations of the Honor Committee, Vice Polemarch of the Eta Sigma Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, and a Chair of the Leadership Development Committee of the Black Student Alliance. He has no criminal record.

“As evidenced by both his academic and extracurricular achievements, Martese is a smart young man with a bright future,” Mr. Watkins said. “I have spoken with him several times today, and he is absolutely devastated by yesterday's events. Currently, we are preparing to investigate and defend this matter vigorously. Please keep Martese in your prayers during this difficult time.”

Mr. Johnson and his family ask that the media respect his privacy at this time and direct any further questions to his attorney, Daniel Watkins, with Williams Mullen. The investigation is still in its early stages, and Mr. Watkins and Williams Mullen are limited in what information can be shared with the media.

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