Trial Date Set for UVA Student Martese Johnson
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A trial date is set for the University of Virginia student involved in a controversial and bloody arrest on the UVA Corner.
In March three Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents arrested 20-year-old UVA student Martese Johnson outside Trinity Irish Pub. The agents thought Johnson had a fake ID.
Johnson was injured during the arrest, a picture taken from the crowd shows him on the ground with a bloodied face. He was charged with obstruction of justice and public intoxication.
Johnson's attorney, Daniel Watkins, maintains ABC agents did not have reasonable suspicion to arrest Johnson and he wants the charges thrown out. "We believe the police lacked justification to detain or arrest him,” he said.
Thursday, Johnson went before Judge Robert Downer, Jr., in Charlottesville General District Court for a status hearing. A trial date was set for September 30. A June 12 hearing was also set. That's when prosecutors will decide if they will pursue charges against Johnson or the officers involved.
"We should know in the first week of June, first two weeks of June whether the commonwealth will indeed drop the charges or move forward,” Watkins stated.
Virginia State Police conducted the review of the arrest. The city commonwealth's attorney, Joe Platania, says the decision to drop charges will be held off until after a final meeting with state police. The meeting is slated for the first week in June.
Johnson's arrest has drawn wide attention because images of him with a bloody face spread quickly on social media. The arrest sparked controversy in Charlottesville and made national headlines. UVA students rallied around Johnson immediately after the arrest and protestors took to the streets of Charlottesville.
Thursday, Rick Turner, the head of the Albemarle – Charlottesville NAACP, said it's more likely an overall training issue. He also notes Johnson was arrested on Saint Patrick's Day which is a busy night for police.
"It might not have been a racial issue," he stated. "Every time an African-American person is stopped, it doesn't necessarily have to be a racial issue."
Whether or not race was a factor in the arrest, Johnson says he's moving forward with a summer internship on Capitol Hill.
A slew of supporters packed the courtroom Thursday. They stood with Johnson, hoping the city prosecutor will drop the charges.
"I believe justice will be served at the end of the day and I hope you all will stand with me until then," Johnson said. “I just want to thank everyone that's been supporting me through what's a strenuous process and I hope that in the near future that this process will end.”