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Former University of Virginia Student Awarded $250K Settlement After Brutal Arrest by Police

Martese Johnson

Martese Johnson was charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice, but the charges were later dismissed. (Photo by Andrew Shurtleff/AP Photo)

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has reached a settlement with a former University of Virginia student left battered and bloodied after his arrest by officers outside a local pub in March 2015.

Martese Johnson filed a $3 million lawsuit over his brutal arrest but settled Wednesday for a total of $249,950, local station NBC 29 reported. A joint statement posted by lawyers on the ABC website said the decision to settle was mutual and made in hopes of avoiding the uncertainty of expensive and prolonged legal proceedings.

Moreover, the terms of the agreement includes no admission of liability or wrongdoing by either party.

” … 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.

On March 18, 2015, Johnson was turned away from Trinity Irish Pub by ABC officers who thought he was trying to get into the club with a fake ID. Johnson was under 21 at the time. He flashed his drivers’ license to the bouncer, but read back an address that didn’t match the one on his ID. That’s when officers forced him to the ground, brutally assaulting him.

*Warning: Video contains graphic content.

Johnson was charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice, but the charges were eventually dropped, according to The Daily Progress.

Johnson’s lawsuit initially named the ABC, ABC Director Shawn P. Walker and the three officers involved in his arrest, who he accused of excessive force, gross negligence and false arrest, among other things. The then U.Va student also alleged that his civil rights were violated and accused Walker of failing to train his agents.

A judge’s ruling in the suit dismissed ABC and agent John S. Cielakie as defendants, however, but allowed the case to move forward, NBC29 reported. The counts of false arrest, negligence, and failure to train were dismissed, as well.

“The last thing a state agency or local police department wants is to be caught up in a case of abusive activity against a minority,” U.Va law professor George Rutherglen told The Daily Progress. “In this kind of case, you can see why each side might agree to settle.”

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