Many people believe Martese Johnson should be pressing charges, not facing them. The 20-year-old UVA student was arrested last week by Virginia's Alcoholic Beverage Control agents, who, according to photos, held him to the ground as blood gushed from his head. Now he's headed to court, but not as the plaintiff. On Thursday, Johnson will appear in court to face charges for public intoxication and obstruction of justice.
On Thursday morning, Johnson will attend his first court hearing to face the misdemeanor charges of public intoxication and obstruction of justice. According to Williams Mullen, the law firm representing Johnson, he will plead not guilty to both charges. Prosecutors at the office of the Commonwealth's attorney have requested to continue the case until the end of May, at which time they will decide whether or not they want to pursue the charges against Johnson.
The time frame coincides with the state's investigation into the arrest and the ABC police's conduct. So far, Johnson's lawyer, Daniel Watkins, has interviewed several key witnesses to the arrest outside Trinity Irish Pub: Kevin Badke, the owner of the Trinity Irish Pub, and his lawyer; Allen Groves, Dean of Students at UVA; and Dr. Marcus Martin, Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity at UVA. After meeting with them, Watkins released the following statement:
They all have said the same thing: moments prior to what the now-viral video presents, Martese was polite and well-mannered.
The pub also released its own statement, which called the conversation between Johnson and Badke "polite and cordial."
In Mr. Badke's opinion, Mr. Johnson did not appear to be intoxicated in the least. Despite the conversation, which was cordial and respectful, Mr. Badke reiterated that he could not permit him to enter. He handed Mr. Johnson his ID back and Mr. Johnson began walking in a north westerly direction up University Avenue. A few moments later, Mr. Badke heard a commotion, turned, and saw Mr. Johnson on the ground about 30 feet further up on University Avenue with ABC agents detaining him.
After Johnson's court hearing, he'll meet with Virginia State Police to provide his account of the arrest. A press release from the police department states that so far they've fielded "more than two dozen emails and phone calls," and "collected and reviewed video, photographs, and other evidence" crucial to investigation of the March 18 arrest.
The investigation was ordered by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who, along with UVA president Teresa Sullivan, was deeply disturbed by the now-viral picture of Johnson's bloody arrest. A source in McAuliffe's administration told the Guardian:
The governor wants to make sure we are pursuing ABC and if there is an indication of more institutional problems he will not hesitate to pursue that.
Which sounds eerily like the federal investigation into the Ferguson Police Department — but, fortunately, in this case, Johnson is able to give his side of the story.