Attorney for UVA student Martese Johnson releases statement

Martese Johnson attended a rally held to support him by University of Virginia students. His face was visibly bruised. (Photo courtesy: WSLS)

University of Virginia student Martese Johnson, who was arrested by Virginia ABC officers outside of a Charlottesville pub, has obtained legal council.

The 20-year-old Johnson has been charged with two misdemeanors: Obstruction of justice without force and profane swearing and/or intoxication in public.

On Wednesday, Johnson’s attorney, Daniel P. Watkins, released the following statement on behalf of his client:

“On March 18, 2015, Charlottesville Police charged 20-year old Martese Johnson with two misdemeanors: 1) obstruction of justice without force and 2) profane swearing and/or intoxication in public. The charges were filed after a Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officer and local police confronted Mr. Johnson near “the Corner,” a popular off-campus social hub near the University of Virginia. Contrary to early police reports, Mr. Johnson has not been accused of possessing false identification.

“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,” Mr. Watkins said. “This morning he received ten stitches at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Fortunately, Martese’s physical wounds are beginning to heal.”

Mr. Johnson is a third-year student at the University of Virginia, double majoring in Italian and Media Studies. He holds numerous leadership positions on grounds, including Vice Chair for Community Relations of the Honor Committee, Vice Polemarch of the Eta Sigma Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, and a Chair of the Leadership Development Committee of the Black Student Alliance. He has no criminal record.

“As evidenced by both his academic and extracurricular achievements, Martese is a smart young man with a bright future,” Mr. Watkins said. “I have spoken with him several times today, and he is absolutely devastated by yesterday’s events. Currently, we are preparing to investigate and defend this matter vigorously. Please keep Martese in your prayers during this difficult time.”

Mr. Johnson and his family ask that the media respect his privacy at this time and direct any further questions to his attorney, Daniel Watkins, with Williams Mullen. The investigation is still in its early stages, and Mr. Watkins and Williams Mullen are limited in what information can be shared with the media.”

A statement released by Virginia ABC stated that,”‘The uniformed ABC agents observed and approached the individual after he was refused entry to a licensed establishment. A determination was made by the agents to further detain the individual based on their observations and further questioning.

“In the course of an arrest being made, the arrested individual sustained injuries. The individual received treatment for his injuries at a local hospital and was released.”

Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office issued a statement about the incident, asking for Virginia State Police to investigate:

“Governor McAuliffe is concerned by the reports of this incident and has asked the Secretary of Public Safety to initiate an independent Virginia State Police investigation into the use of force in this matter. The Governor’s office has been in contact with University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan and local law enforcement and will continue to monitor this situation closely as the investigation proceeds.”

This is a developing story; stay with 8News on air and online for continuous updates.

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