Johnson files $3 million lawsuit against ABC

Seven counts include assault, battery, failure to train

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Martese Johnson, left, will continue to engage the services of attorney Daniel Watkins, right, as he pursues a civil suit against Virginia ABC. 

John Pappas | Cavalier Daily

Fourth-year College student Martese Johnson filed a $3 million civil lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control Tuesday following his arrest last March.

Johnson is suing the three ABC agents involved in his arrest, as well as ABC Director Shawn Walker and the department itself.

The seven counts in the federal lawsuit include false arrest, excessive force, failure to train or supervise, negligence, assault and battery.

“The suit was filed in federal court in Charlottesville, Virginia,” according to a statement from Williams Mullen, one of the firms representing Johnson, “less than a mile away from where the encounter with law enforcement agents took place.”

Virginia ABC declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The Virginia State Police conducted an investigation into the arrest last spring, the results of which were released in September after much pressure from the public and lawmakers. Johnson’s lawyer Daniel Watkins has spoken out against the report and its findings, calling them inadequate.

The lawsuit claims ABC agents have a history of aggressive and excessive behavior, citing a 2013 incident in which plainclothes agents arrested former University student Elizabeth Daly.

Daly also sued the ABC following her arrest, in which ABC agents mistakenly thought the sparkling water she possessed was alcohol and attempted to break the window of her car, according to court documents.

Daly originally sought $40 million but settled for $200,000 in 2014.

Johnson will continue to be represented by Daniel Watkins of Williams Mullen in addition to five other counselors including Charles E. James and John Davis also of Williams Mullen and Washington D.C.-based attorneys Benjamin Chew, Joshua Drian, and Diana Eisner of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

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