State Police Review ABC Arrest

Jul 9, 2013

Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control director says he’s asked state police to review an incident last spring that landed a UVA sorority girl in jail and created a public firestorm.  

A Virginia civil liberties group says the legislature should also be involved. 

ABC Chairman Neal Insley has not spoken publicly since agents approached a UVA student who had purchased bottled water and ice cream for a sorority fundraiser.   ABC was in the midst of a two-day sting at Harris Teeter and thought the young woman had purchased beer, but when they descended on her SUV,  demanding she  and two companions get out of the car, she says she didn’t know who these people were and was terrified.

That’s no surprise to John Whitehead.  The head of a civil liberties group called the Rutherford Institute says ABC agents and other law enforcement personnel  cannot simply act on suspicion – they need some evidence, and their approach was all wrong.

“They should be approaching them with respect, not rushing toward them, banging on their windows, trying to crack open the glass for bottled water. We don’t want that in America.”

Whitehead sent an 8-page letter to state lawmakers, asking them to investigate this case – and to review ABC’s need for more than 120 agents and a $750,000 mobile control center.

“The ABC was set up supposedly in the Prohibition era to ferret out moonshiners.  I’ve asked a lot of people this question:  How many moonshiners have you heard about?  How many have you seen?  Not many.  So what they’re doing in my opinion is making work.  That’s why they’re having two-day stings in Charlottesville.”

Because the Charlottesville woman drove away and allegedly bumped a couple of agents with her car, she was  charged with felonies, but the Commonwealth’s attorney refused to prosecute.  Her family and friends believe they are owed an apology, but ABC’s director says he can’t comment on a matter still under investigation.  He has announced that in future stings, a uniformed officer will approach suspects to avoid confusion.