Virginia lawmakers call for release of Martese Johnson arrest report

McAuliffe administrations resists release to protect personnel information

nsmartesejohnsonandlawyer2jpappas

Daniel Watkins (right), the lawyer for Martese Johnson (left), said releasing the report would have a positive public impact.

John Pappas | Cavalier Daily

Two Virginia lawmakers called for a hearing on Wednesday to investigate why Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his administration will not release the report on Martese Johnson’s arrest that has led to the reinstatement of the three Alcoholic Beverage Control agents involved.

The agency has come under heightened scrutiny following Johnson’s bloody arrest by ABC agents on the Corner in March.

Virginia State Police announced an investigation into incident shortly after it occured, but the report has not been made public. ABC has since announced that the three officers have returned to active duty.

“After thoroughly reviewing the incident and the report, Virginia ABC concluded that the agents did not violate agency policy and returned these special agents to active duty today,” the ABC said in a statement.

Now, Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, and Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, are calling for a hearing to determine why the McAuliffe administration is refusing to release the report.

“I would not want to change the entire way [ABC] does business based on one incident or make a poor judgment, but without knowing exactly what happened we’re sort of flying blind,” Gilbert said.

The McAuliffe administration says they have not released the report because it contains personnel information that shouldn’t be released to the public, said Brian Moran, Virginia secretary of public safety and homeland security.

Releasing the report would have positive public impacts, said Johnson’s lawyer Daniel Watkins.

“It was brave and admirable for the governor to call for an investigation, but that is only half of it,” Watkins said. “Because the taxpayers paid for the report, it stands that it should be released.”

There are a few legal courses of action to have the report released, Watkins said, particularly if someone implicated in the case sued the agency that possessed the report. In such a case, it could be released to the plaintiff.

The agents involved could also release the report on their own if they wished, Watkins said.

Following Johnson’s arrest, McAuliffe signed an executive order mandating that all ABC agents be retrained in the use of force, as well as in cultural diversity and interaction with young people.

Releasing the report could further such improvements, Watkins said.

“This is a very important issue, not just in Virginia, but across the country,” Watkins said.

related stories