CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WWBT) - For the first time, Charlottesville's Commonwealth's Attorney speaks out about his decision to set aside the charges against UVA student Martese Johnson. It comes as new surveillance video shows the moments leading up to the UVA student's bloody arrest by ABC agents. Prosecutors say there actually is evidence to show Johnson resisted that night but, they don't believe prosecuting him is appropriate.
Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman says Johnson wasn't committing a crime prior to being approached by ABC agents. He also says the agents were simply their jobs and that there were no prejudice involved when Johnson was taken to the ground. So those agents won't be prosecuted either.
Chapman says when Johnson was turned away from a bar for being 20 years old, ABC agents had the authority to approach him to check if he had a valid ID. Turns out, he did - but prosecutors say Johnson was clearly agitated by being stopped and even tried walking away a couple of times. That's when the student was taken to the ground and injured as a result. Now Chapman is speaking out about those ABC agents and Martese Johnson.
"This guy, he wasn't doing anything wrong. He was innocent. I wish he had used different judgement…But that doesn't mean we should give this young man who came a long way to make it to the University of Virginia a criminal record…Had we thought for a moment that malice, that racial animosity or intentional or reckless disregard of the authority of a sworn law enforcement officer existed, we would not have hesitated to prosecute anyone who was so involved," Chapman said.
State investigators questioned some 50 people in this case, including 15 who actually witnessed the arrest. Although Johnson was initially charged with public intoxication, prosecutors say they have no evidence that he was drunk and no blood alcohol test was conducted at the scene, though they do believe he had been drinking that night.
Right after the announcement, Johnson's attorney released a statement saying the agents lacked justification to detain the UVA student and that Johnson fully cooperated with State Police, answering their questions throughout the investigation. Martese turned 21 years old Wednesday.
Another video from the night of the arrest shows Johnson cursing at agents as he was being detained. Chapman says the agents involved should be commended for not reacting to that behavior.
Martese Johnson told NBC 12 exclusively last week: "It really is society that we need to change or else these incidents are going to keep happening."