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Outcry over ABC bust of UVa student grows

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Posted: Monday, July 1, 2013 9:32 pm | Updated: 10:52 am, Fri Oct 18, 2013.

Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control officials said the current review of a University of Virginia student's arrest after agents mistook a crate of LaCroix sparkling water for beer is the second look agency supervisors have taken at the case.

ABC earlier this year found no wrongdoing in the agents' encounter with three sorority women who panicked at the sight of a half-dozen undercover officers in plainclothes. One of the agents unholstered his weapon during the April 11 incident and held it at the "ready" position, but did not point it at anyone, according to ABC.

"Because of the public outcry, they're reviewing the facts of the case again to make sure nothing happened," said agency spokeswoman Maureen Haney. 

Elizabeth Daly, 20, was charged with felony eluding police and two counts of felony assault of a police officer after her SUV "grazed" two ABC agents as she attempted to drive away to a police station. Those charges, which carry a maximum combined sentence of 15 years in prison, were dropped last week, but the case has fueled outrage that showed no sign of abating Monday.

"The governor is aware of this issue," Bob McDonnell's spokesman, Tucker Martin, stated in an email. "The secretary of public safety has spoken with ABC officials and is monitoring the matter closely ... [she] is awaiting the conclusions of their review."

People besieged ABC's Richmond headquarters with phone calls and emails Monday, asking how a late-night trip to buy cookie dough and ice cream for a sorority philanthropy event turned into an overnight stay at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail for Daly, who has no criminal record and says she has never consumed alcohol.

"They're calling the governor's office, they're calling our public affairs office, they're calling every office," Haney said. "We're hearing about it on Twitter, they're using our website's email form, they're commenting on our Facebook."

A statement ABC issued on Facebook about the incident had garnered more than 450 comments by Monday night. Users posted links to contact information for ABC board members and applauded the women for being vigilant. McDonnell's office fielded about 30 emails from constituents sounding off about the arrest by Monday afternoon, Martin said.

Media swarmed the Daly family's Henrico County home over the weekend when news of her arrest and exoneration went viral. As Richmond outlets knocked on the family's front door, stories about the incident began popping up on the Huffington Post, Fox News, the Drudge Report and Gawker.

Daly's father, Jeff Daly, said the family hunkered down and forwarded interview requests from The Washington Post and talk show hosts Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to his daughter's Charlottesville-based attorney, Francis McQ. Lawrence.

Jeff Daly said well-wishers have encouraged the family to file a formal complaint with the ABC or a civil suit, but he was unsure Monday how they will proceed.

"For the time being, we've just chosen to stay out of the limelight and let Elizabeth recover from all of this," he said in a phone interview. "As a family, we're just trying to put this all behind us for now."

Elizabeth Daly said she and her friends were "terrified" when a man and woman in street clothes began knocking on her car windows in the darkened Harris Teeter parking lot. Their badges were unidentifiable, she said in a written statement after her court date Thursday.

When Daly slipped her keys into the ignition to crack the windows, a male agent yanked at the door handle, banged on the window and yelled at the women to exit the vehicle, said Daly's front-seat passenger, who asked not to be identified.

She was on edge after a night spent listening to sexual assault survivors tell their stories at a Take Back the Night event on UVa Grounds and said she had already noticed the man staring at her and her friends as they walked to their car in the back of the parking lot carrying supplies for an Alzheimer's Association benefit.

When he began to yell, other men positioned themselves around the car and the woman yelled at Daly to "go, go go," court records state. One drew a gun. Another jumped onto the hood of the car as Daly and her friends dialed 911 to report the incident, according to the records. The women apologized repeatedly minutes later when they stopped for a car with lights and sirens on, prosecutors said.

Daly's passenger said she was handcuffed without explanation and did not get one until a Charlottesville police officer arrived.

"He was calm, professional, and treated me with respect," she stated.

"He helped me to the curb so that I could sit and calm down. He said to us that ABC officers have all the rights of regular officers, and then finally it became clear that these were ABC officers."

Haney said she could not say whether any of the agents involved in the incident had been placed on administrative leave during the review, because it is a "personnel matter."

"No one is calling this an investigation," she said, of the review. Haney could not say whether the same supervisors who conducted the first review would be leading the second. "The whole agency is reviewing the matter."

Others arrested during the two-day enforcement operation in April described feeling taken aback when teams of two or three agents approached them as they were getting into their vehicles. None of the half-dozen people interviewed Monday reported seeing weapons drawn. The agents made about 10 arrests that Thursday and Friday, according to court records. 

Haney could not say whether it was unusual for a half-dozen agents to focus on a single shopping center parking lot. Virginia ABC employs about 120 special agents, she said.

 

 

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