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Virginia ABC clears agents involved in bloody UVA arrest, won’t release investigation details

Posted at 11:13 AM, Aug 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-11 00:14:29-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE,Va. -- The Virginia ABC agents involved in the March 18 arrest of University of Virginia student Martese Johnson returned to duty Monday following a Virginia State Police investigation.  After reviewing the incident and the Virginia State Police report, Virginia ABC concluded the agents did not violate agency policy.

Photos of Johnson after the bloody St. Patrick's Day arrest went viral as some accused the agents of brutality. The agents mistakenly believed Johnson was carrying a fake I.D. outside a Charlottesville nightclub the night in question. Charges against Johnson were eventually dropped. The agents who arrested him were placed on leave, but never prosecuted for their actions.

While the Virginia ABC said the agents did not violate Virginia ABC policy, the agency cited personnel privacy laws as the reason why it would not release details into the Virginia State Police investigation. That lack of openness was a concern for advocates of open government.

"There's no way for future officers to know what they should and shouldn't do," Megan Rhyne, with the Virginia Coalition of Open Government, said. "There’s no way for individuals to know what they need to - to avoid a similar fate to Martese Johnson."

Virginia ABC said the agency was moving forward with directives from the Governor’s Executive Order 40. Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Order 40 on March 25, which took steps toward improving law enforcement in the ABC and retraining of ABC special agents on use of force.