ABC and one agent nixed from Martese Johnson’s suit

Photos and videos of Martese Johnson's bloody arrest went viral. Photo: Bryan Beaubrun Photos and videos of Martese Johnson’s bloody arrest went viral. Photo: Bryan Beaubrun

A federal judge ruled that a former UVA student was not falsely arrested during a controversial incident occurring on St. Patrick’s Day last year, and dropped the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control and one of its agents from his $3 million lawsuit December 13.

Videos of Martese Johnson’s bloody arrest went viral after he was denied entrance to Trinity Irish Pub and taken down by nearby ABC officers who thought he flashed a fake ID to the bar’s owner. Though underage, the student had showed his actual ID at the door, incorrectly recited his zip code and was turned away.

In his original suit—filed October 15, 2015, against the ABC, its law enforcement director Shawn Walker, and the three agents involved—Johnson alleges that Agent John Cielakie handcuffed him and placed him in leg shackles after Agents Jared Miller and Thomas Custer tackled him to the ground. Cielakie is the agent dropped from the suit.

“In the instant case, Miller and Custer had already thrown Johnson to the ground before Cielakie intervened,” U.S. District Court Judge Glen Conrad wrote in his opinion. “From the facts as pled, the court believes that a reasonable officer in Agent Cielakie’s position could believe that further handcuffing of the plaintiff was necessary. Accordingly, Agent Cielakie cannot be seen as having used an objectively unreasonable amount of force.”

Cielakie was also involved in an April 2013 incident in which ABC agents surrounded UVA student Elizabeth Daily’s car, punching her windshield and slamming on her windows with their flashlights, because they believed the case of water she was carrying was a case of beer.

In his written order, Judge Conrad dismissed Johnson’s allegation that he was falsely arrested, agreeing that a reasonable ABC agent would believe they had probable cause to arrest him. He also dismissed one count of negligent supervision by law enforcement director Walker, and dropped the ABC entirely from the suit.

Johnson’s four-day trial is scheduled for July.

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