The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and former University of Virginia student Martese Johnson have reached a $249,950 settlement in the $3 million lawsuit Johnson filed after his bloody arrest in 2015.
According to a joint statement by lawyers posted on the ABC’s website, the sides agreed to settle to avoid the cost and uncertainty of lengthy legal proceedings.
In March 2015, Johnson was forced to the ground by an ABC officer after being turned away from a bar on the Corner. His face was bruised and bloodied. He later was charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice, but the charges were eventually dismissed.
“In the Parties’ and ABC’s view, the interests of justice and the long term interests of the community are best served, not through continued and protracted litigation, but by taking the events as an opportunity to educate the public and foster constructive dialogue between ordinary citizens, law enforcement officers, and public officials concerning police and citizen relationships in a diverse community,” the statement reads.
“Anyone with these experiences in a college town should rethink their policy of dealing with college students, some of whom will be underage and trying to buy alcohol and liquor, and some of whom are not underage,” said George Rutherglen, a UVa law professor who focuses on civil procedure. “[ABC doesn’t] want to turn this into an exercise of blaming and shaming; they want to turn this into a systematic examination of where are downfalls in routine procedures and how to address them.”
Johnson initially accused the three officers involved of false arrest, excessive force, gross negligence and assault and battery. He also accused the ABC and its law enforcement director, Shawn P. Walker, of failure to train and supervise the agents and Walker of negligent supervision of the agents. A judge’s ruling altered the suit and allowed it to move forward with only enforcement agents Thomas Custer and Jared Miller as defendants.
A spokeswoman for the ABC, Dawn Eischen, said Custer no longer works for the department and that Miller still is employed there.