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ABC investigation released this week not satisfactory, Martese Johnson's lawyer says

Governor's office requested investigation from Virginia State Police

<p>Brian Coy, communication director for the Governor’s Office, said discussions to improve the Virginia ABC will continue after the release of the Virginia State Police review.</p>

Brian Coy, communication director for the Governor’s Office, said discussions to improve the Virginia ABC will continue after the release of the Virginia State Police review.

Following this week’s release of the Virginia State Police investigation into the bloody arrest of Martese Johnson last March, Daniel Watkins, Johnson’s lawyer, criticized that the review was performed by a law enforcement agency and not an independent group.

The Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control said the review of the officers who arrested Martese Johnson last March was external because it was conducted by the Virginia State Police, an organization separate from the ABC.

The Virginia State Police has a division dedicated to investigating cases like Johnson’s arrest, which prompted the Governor’s office to utilize it for the administrative review, said governor's office spokesman Brian Coy. 

“Because of their independence and because they have a specialty in this type of investigation, they were the right group to conduct it,” Coy said.

The review was released on Tuesday, but has been completed since July. The ABC reinstated the officers in question in August. The investigation was the only factor in the officers' reinstatement, Coy said.

Despite pressure from Watkins and the media, the review was only released to the public after the three ABC officers involved consented to its release last week, said ABC spokesman Kathleen Shaw in an email statement.

“The ABC special agents consented to the release of the review late last week and it has been made available as quickly as possible following that consent,” Shaw said.

The first report following Johnson’s arrest was a criminal investigation submitted to the Charlottesville Commonwealth Attorney, the deciding factor in the call not to file charges against Johnson, Coy said. 

The second report on the ABC officers’ conduct marks the end of investigation, but not the end of conversations about changes to the ABC.

“There are a number of discussions still going on about how to reform the policies at ABC,” Coy said. “So those conversations will continue.”

In addition to the police review, McAuliffe ordered a list of recommendations to be submitted by an expert panel. The release of the review may make the recommendations subject to change, but for now the Governor plans to examine the current proposed changes.

“We need to keep looking at it and see if there are any things that weren’t covered in the recommendations that have already been presented to the governor,” Coy said.

Watkins said he was not satisfied with the review. While the transparency of the government is duly noted, the force of the investigation is questionable, Watkins said in a statement.

“An internal investigation conducted by Virginia law enforcement is important,” Watkins said. “However, the broader question still stands: how much force should police be permitted to use when investigating regulatory offenses?”

The ABC released their own internal review in tandem with Virginia police. Their review, completed at the same time the ABC officers were reinstated in August, was summarized the Virginia State Police report.

“The review is based entirely on the facts and findings contained in the VSP administrative review, summarized in part herein,” the ABC said in the internal review.


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