During a brief press conference Thursday, a lawyer for University of Virginia student Martese Johnson spoke on behalf of the young man, telling reporters that the trauma of his violent arrest will forever be with him.
Daniel P. Watkins of the Virginia-based law firm Williams Mullen also said his team intends “to fight the criminal charges against him with the utmost vigor,” NBC reports.
Johnson was charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice after agents with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control arrested him early Wednesday morning near popular campus hangout, The Trinity Irish Bar. By Wednesday afternoon, photographs of the 20-year-old’s bloodied face were distributed on the internet thousands of times.
Despite early reports that the honor student was denied entry from a bar and detained for using a fake ID, Watkins said Johnson was never in “possession of false identification.”
According to UVA’s student paper, The Cavalier Daily, the discrepancy stemmed from a misunderstanding of Johnson’s actual zip code.
“Martese presented a valid Illinois state identification card, issued in 2011,” Watkins said.
“The employee then asked Martese for a zip code and he recited his mothers Chicago city zip code at her current address, which is different from the Chicago city zip code on the identification card, which was nearly four years old.”
He added that Johnson — a member of the historic black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi and a junior Italian and media studies major — is an “upstanding young man with a bright future,” who is shocked by the events that occurred in front of his university. With Johnson’s mother standing behind them, Watkins read a statement prepared by the student.
“I was shocked that my face was slammed into the pavement across the road from my school,” Watkins read. “I trust the scars on my face and head will one day heal, but the trauma of what those officers did will stay with me forever…as the officers held me down one thought raced through my mind: how could this happen? I still believe in our community — I know this community will support me during this time.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has called for an investigation into the brutal arrest. The ensuing altercation caused a gash on Johnson’s head that required 10 stitches.
We’ll keep you updated with the latest.