No charges against Martese Johnson — the black Virginia college student bloodied during arrest
A Virginia prosecutor said on Thursday he will not pursue misdemeanor charges against a black college student whose arrest and rough handling by white officers prompted the governor to order a state police investigation.
University of Virginia student Martese Johnson, 20, made national headlines when a video surfaced on social media showing him on the sidewalk, his face bloodied, and with state alcoholic beverage control agents standing over him. His facial injuries required 10 stitches to close.
His arrest on March 18 also touched off student demonstrations on the campus amid accusations the incident was racially inspired.
It came at a time when confrontations between black citizens and white police officers had prompted protests around the country.
Johnson, part of the university’s honor court, was charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice.
“The Commonwealth does not intend to prosecute either alleged offense,” Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman said in an order filed in Charlottesville General District Court.
The order constitutes a voluntary termination of the charges against Johnson, subject to the court’s approval.
Chapman indicated he also would not seek charges against law enforcement officers involved in the incident.
Johnson was to appear in court on Friday for a status report.
The results of the state police investigation into Johnson’s arrest have not yet been made public. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe ordered the investigation at the request of the University of Virginia president and others.
In public statements, Johnson’s defense attorney Daniel Watkins has blamed the officers for his client’s injuries.
“Just before handcuffing him, police took Martese to the ground, striking his head on the pavement and causing him to bleed profusely from the gash on his head,” Watkins said.
Chapman said in a news release he hopes the incident will lead to a dialogue between citizens, police officers and public officials concerning law enforcement in a diverse community.
Chapman said he will make a public presentation concerning the evidence in the case and the conclusions he reached on June 17 in Charlottesville’s City Council chambers.