Three ABC agents and its director filed a motion in U.S. District Court November 16 to dismiss all seven claims in UVA student Martese Johnson’s $3 million lawsuit stemming from his encounter with agents last March that left him bloody and needing 10 stitches.
Johnson alleges false arrest, excessive force, negligence and battery against special agents John Cielakie, Thomas Custer and Jared Miller in his suit. Against Miller, Johnson makes a further claim of assault.
He accuses the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and its director, Shawn Walker, of negligent supervision and training, and a failure to train or supervise.
In response, the defense claims that as an agency under the control of the commonwealth and not as a single person, the ABC is protected by Eleventh Amendment immunity, meaning a lawsuit cannot be heard against them.
The defense also sought to exempt Walker from the claims made against him by insisting that he “…was not present at the event and there is insufficient evidence to show that he was negligent.”
The physical contact between Johnson and the three ABC officers was reasonable, according to the defense, because they had “probable cause” to believe Johnson was using a fake ID, which is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
Johnson’s repeated attempts to free himself from the officers restraining him were cited as justification for the amount of force used by the ABC officials, according to the motion.
“The plaintiff performed such acts [pulling away wordlessly from the officers] no less than three times during the stop,” the motion reads. “In a tense and uncertain situation, these acts could have caused a reasonable officer to make the split-second decision that force was necessary to prevent the plaintiff from leaving the scene or to protect his safety.”
The defense further claims that because Johnson received medical treatment after his arrest, it is not “plausible” to claim that the officers had used excessive force in arresting him.