Details of the April 11 incident in which 20 year-old University of Virginia student, Elizabeth Daly, was assaulted, then arrested by state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents continue to defy logic.
Daly—who had just purchased bottled water and cookie dough from the Charlottesville Harris Teeter supermarket—was confronted in a dark parking lot by menacing, plainclothes “police” who could not be positively identified under the circumstances. She fled the scene while a passenger called 911 to verify the identities of the attackers. The terrifying 911 audio tells the story from the scene, but there is considerable back-story polarity regarding comments of public officials who have spoken on the arrest and ABC tactics.
In a July 9 Daily Progress story, Charlottesville Police Department spokesman, Lieutenant Ronnie Roberts, stated emphatically that the department was unaware of the ABC operation in Charlottesville:
“They did not notify us that they were doing the project,” he said. “It is not uncommon that if a state agency was working in our area we wouldn’t know about it.”
“Additionally, we request that there will be increased cooperation and coordination between ABC agents and our City police department during future ABC operations in the City. We realize ABC agents have historically worked closely with our officers, but in the case of this incident our department was not involved until we received the call for service from one of the young ladies targeted by the agents.”
And in a public statement:
“We have gotten a lot of outrage, I guess, about how this happened, and unfortunately, it was something that city police did not know about.”
“The Charlottesville Police Department wasn’t even notified of the sting taking place that evening in Charlottesville, which is also troubling.”
However, the 911 call, placed by Daly passenger, Anne Downey, raises questions about these claims. Roughly, one minute into the call, the 911 operator reassures a frightened Downey that it is safe to pull the car over, advising her:
“I would stop there because I think there actually are some ABC officials.”
If local law enforcement did not know about the ABC presence at Harris Teeter that night, then how was the 911 operator aware within sixty-three seconds that the pursuers were ABC agents? Who conveyed that information to him? Or, was he aware in advance.
University of Virginia students themselves, and other interested parties could have known about the ABC’s intended Charlottesville presence through a revealing story in UVa’s online student newspaper, the Cavalier Daily.
Published on April 8, 2013—three days before the Elizabeth Daly incident—the story was entitled:
“ABC launches Operation Charlottesville: Underage drinking prompts government agency to crack down on Corner bars, fraternities”
The article, by Charlotte Halbert, begins:
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control recently decided to increase enforcement measures around the University, and their new policies have the potential to affect students all around Grounds.
Halbert goes on to describe ABC’s pre-enforcement discussions with high-level University officials:
ABC agents spoke with Dean of Students Allen Groves and other associate deans of students during spring break about their new policies, which will include increased enforcement, especially on the Corner and in areas with a high concentrations of fraternity and sorority houses. ABC was unable to comment on specific agent activity or targeted fraternities.
The Cavalier Daily piece concludes with a quote from Nicole Eramo, an associate dean of students:
“The increased enforcement increases our workload if more students are charged with alcohol violations, but we are grateful for ABC coming and informing us.”
The documented discussions between ABC and UVa officials—and the publication of this information in the Cavalier Daily—leave many unanswered questions in the state persecution of Elizabeth Daly and the now escalated investigation of her arrest.
Who knew what? And, when did they know it? Inquiring minds, civil libertarians, open-minded investigators, retained attorneys, Elizabeth Daly (along with her distraught family) and everyone else has a right to timely, forthright, and complete answers to these vexing and lingering questions.