Judge Robert Downer in Charlottesville General District Court has now scheduled a status report for June 12th, according to WINA News in Charlottesville. Presumably, the Commonwealth will make the decision at that point about whether to move forward with the charges that Martese Johnson now faces, and should those charges remain at that point, his trial would then take place on September 30, 2015, roughly six months following his arrest.
Johnson was charged with obstructing justice without threats of force, and profane swearing or intoxication in public. The arresting officer was Alcohol and Beverage Control special agent J. Miller.
Daniel Watkins, Mr. Johnson’s attorney, had filed a Motion to Dismiss the charges based on his belief that the Virginia ABC agent officers did not have reasonable grounds to suspect him of committing a crime.
It is not clear whether the agent officers were aware of the specific reason that Kevin Badke — the owner/operator of the Trinity Irish Pub — had given Mr. Johnson as he had been denied admission at the entrance of the Pub, just prior to the attempt by the agent-officers to detain him for questioning.
It was Mr. Badke who was responsible for validating IDs on the night of the incident, and he had taken special precautions himself, in order to assure that no individual under 21 years of age would be permitted on the premises after 10 pm, which was their policy. They had arranged the outdoor furniture in front of the Pub, so that the line to gain entry to the could not be breached by anyone under the age of 21.
In Mr. Johnson’s case, the zip code he provided verbally to Mr. Badke was differenct from the one that was on the ID he had presented. None of the Court documents have provided information about whether the reason Mr. Johnson was being questioned was related to his having been denied admission based on problems with the Illinois ID that he had presented.
Statements made public by Kevin Badke indicated that Mr. Johnson was unable to confirm specific details regarding the ID that he presented:
“According to Mr. Badke, this is a test he frequently uses to determine if a patron is using a fake ID. If the ID doesn’t belong to them, they are not familiar with some of the details on the ID. Mr. Johnson provided the wrong zip code …”
According to CBS6 in Richmond, the documents included in the five-page motion to dismiss the charges, we learned a bit more about the initial encounter:
Watkins said in court papers his client was pushed to the ground after pulling his elbow from the grasp of one of the ABC agents — who tried stopping Johnson from walking away while he was being questioned.
As to his having been charged with profane swearing or intoxication, it is not clear whether Mr. Johnson may have resorted to prafanity during that initial interaction with the ABC agent officer that was not captured on video, it does appear thereafter that he was either unwilling or unable to be taken into custody, and was understandably agitated once he had been involuntarily subdued. He did express a streak of prafanities at that point. It is clear that Mr. Johnson walked away from the agent officer who had attempted to detain him for questioning relating to his ID. Mr. Watkins seems to be suggesting in the quote above that he believes that Mr. Johnson was free to decide to walk away while the officer was questioning him — which is quite another thing altogether from one’s having the Constitutinal right to remain silent or to have an attorney present during questioning by authorized law-enforcement officers. It would be quite surprising to learn that one has an arbitrary right to walk away.
Both this case and the case involving Elizabeth K. Daly in April of 2013, have provided impetus for Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe to convene a special sub-Panel to look more closely at issues such as the use of force in making citizen arrests, generally.
Possibly they will also look more closely at the issues relating to the circumstances under which an individual may believe — either with or without some justification — that they are free to decide whether or not to submit to police authority, and the consequences they risk in making the decision to resist arrest.
There also has been a well-spring of concern for the need to look more closely at issues relating to detaining students suspected of underage drinking.
What is often overlooked as part of the discussion may be the lack understanding of underage drinking on the outcome of their lives as adults. It is frequently something that the students so often have not really grasped, themselves:
Their drinking large quantities of alcohol during this particular phase of their adolescence — when their bodies are not yet physically mature — can mean a diagnosis of alcohol dependence (rather than alcohol abuse) and that specific diagnosis can mean that they will be fighting alcoholism for a lifetime.