The Virginia State Police has now filed its second Report Thursday, according to Charlottesville’s Daily Progress, regarding the case of Martese Johnson, the University of Virginia student who was injured in an altercation with Agent-officers of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
Gov. Terry McAuliffe had issued an executive order in March, for particular reforms, including the retraining of current ABC Agent-officers; and the development of “memorandums of understanding” with local law enforcement in communities where there are college or university campuses, where vigilent attention is traditionally paid to the dangers of underage drinking.
By 4:36 PM on the day of that arrest, Gov. McAuliffe announced that he was requesting this criminal investigation, and ths second phase of that Report was officially submitted on Thursday, July 30, with Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland iledSecurity.
The Governor called for this specific scrutiny following a discussion with UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan earlier in the day, in keeping with the University of Virginia’s founding principles.that any investigation would pursue the truth, wherever that may lead,
The incident itself, which took place in the early morning hours of 18 March, was recorded by a bystander on a short video which depicts 20-year-old Martese Johnson strugling with the ABC Agent-officers, just after he and one ot those officers had both taken a fall on the brick sidewalk where Mr. Johnson sustained an injury to the crown of his head, resulting in a bloodied appearance of his face. This image on the video — and in still photos taken at that point — then led to the misunderstanding that Mr. Johnson had been intentionally beaten, which was not the case. It is not yet clear whether the ABC Agent was doing at the time they both fell.
Corrine Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, indicated that it would not be possible to disclose the report’s findings. ABC spokeswoman Becky Gettings on Wednesday confirmed that her agency has received a copy of the report and will begin its own review.
NBC29 reports that Ms. Gettings released a statement to their news outlet in which she reveals that there may or may not be additional steps taken as a consequence of this second Report, which has been described as a criminal investigation:
“Any further actions or decisions with regard to the ABC special agents involved in the arrest of Mr. Johnson will come following an opportunity to examine and digest the contents of the report prepared by Virginia State Police.”
The video also shows that Mr. Johnson was either unwilling or unable to allow the officers to safely take him into custody, and his cries of objection emphasized what he believed to have been an interaction motivated by racism. His use of explicitly profane langauge then led to his beomg charged with public swearing. Mr. Johnson’s having continued to evade the ABC Agent’s questioning then led to Mr. Johnson’s being charged with obstruction of justice.
Those cries of Mr. Johnson were heard far and wide; to a nation in an ongoing convern about civil rights, especially in light of the cases involving Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri — which began with an Officer’s request that Mr. Brown refrain from walking down the middle of the road. which he seems to have intentionally disregarded, for one reason or another — as well as the case of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, which also received national recognition, and began with Mr. Garner’s having resisted arrest, on this particular occasion, as had happened numerous times in the past without incident.
Tensions were strained initially, it seemed, during the trial of George Zimmerman where numbers of individuals tried Mr. Zimmerman in the ;court of public opinion — some of whom had followed the presentation of the evidence that was presented to the jury and others who did not. Those who did not concur with the juror’s verdict became vocal proponents of the campaign that had as its slogan: Black Lices Matter, irrespective of their opinion in the Zimmerman case and whether or not they listened to the evidence.
The campaign was reprised during the Michael Brown case, and for the Eric Garner case, and for the Martese Johnson case as well; and there were numerous individuals who supported the phrase itself — irrespective of the specific circumstances of any one of the cases and the evidence that may have been presented.
Each of these incidents may have further altered the disposition of individuals who may have subsequently lost respect for the criminal justice system as currently practiced in the United States — and especially the disproportionate numbers of African-American lives that are effected by incarceration for what are often referred to as non-violent crimes. Such a pre-disposition may now becoming more prevalent as individuals in the African-American communities interact on a day-to-day basis with the most visible representatives of that system: the next law enforcement officer they may chance to encounter.
Americans are trying to understand the facts of each of those incidents and to carefully follow each step of these interactions to learn how misdemeanors eventually could have resulted not only in what would appear to be a more aggressive response by law enforcement, but in the cases of Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner, specifically, resulting in their very regrettable deaths; A rational and sensitive review, characterized by respect for all individuals concerned is required in order to prevent any such occurences in the future.
The Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office filed a motion last month indicating that they would not be prosecuting the two misdemeanor charges of “obstruction of justice without force; and public swearing or intoxication,” against Mr. Johnson, qualifying the statement as follows:
“upon review of the evidence … the interest of justice is not served by further prosecution … in relation to the events of March 18.”
The Charlottesville Prosecutors also made clear at that time that they would not be pursuiing charges against any of the ABC Agents relating to the Martese Johnson case. These officers, even now, remain on “restricted administrative duty,” pending the outcome of the full review of this complete VSP Report.
The Governor’s expert panel jas met several times to review and consider a wide range of issues relating to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. and its policies and procedures. These experts have experience as stakeholders who seek to balance public safety with other aspects of community development and other concerns of the general public, including individual privacy.
The ABC is charged with public health and safety issues relating to the consumption of alcoholic beverages in general and the dangerous practice of underage drinking, in particular, which can lead to medical and psychsocial consequences unique to the use and abuse of alcohol in those persons under 21 years of age. This expert panel is to make their recommendations this fall.