A judge on Friday accepted Charlottesville prosecutor Dave Chapman’s motion to drop charges against University of Virginia student Martese Johnson, who was bloodied in an arrest by police officers with the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Johnson was arrested in the early morning hours of March 18 after he was turned away from an Irish bar adjacent to campus during St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Johnson received 10 stitches to his head after he was thrown to the ground, handcuffed and shackled by ABC police officers.
Chapman on Thursday filed a court order dropping charges of public intoxication and obstructing justice without force. According to court documents, the ABC officers alleged Johnson’s eyes appeared “red and glassy” and that he acted belligerently during the arrest.
In a statement released Thursday, Chapman wrote that after reviewing the evidence he had decided against charging Johnson or the police officers involved in the altercation that sparked unrest and demonstrations on the bucolic campus. Black students seized upon the violent arrest to protest what they described as excessive use of force by police and tense race relations at the university and in Charlottesville.
“Upon review of the evidence resulting from a thorough and independent criminal investigation conducted by the Virginia State Police, the Commonwealth reached a conclusion that the interest of justice and the long term interest of the Charlottesville community are best served by using this case as an opportunity to engage ordinary citizens, law enforcement officers, and public officials in constructive dialogue concerning police and citizen relationships in a diverse community,” Chapman wrote.
In a statement, Johnson’s lawyer credited Chapman’s diligence looking into the case.
“It has been our position all along that the Virginia ABC officers were not justified in their treatment of Mr. Johnson,” Watkins said. “When I notified him, he was truly ecstatic. His future remains bright and he looks forward to moving on with his life now that this matter has been resolved.”