A University of Virginia student charged last year with assaulting ABC agents attempting to stop her for underage possession beer that turned out to be sparkling water has filed a $40 million lawsuit against the state and seven agents.
Instead of beer, a friend of Elizabeth K. Daly, now 21, had purchased a case of canned water from a Charlottesville grocery. Daly said she was terrified when plainclothes agents surrounded her car and banged on the windows ordering her to roll them down.
After one agent drew a gun and another jumped on the car hood, she said she panicked, unsure they were really agents, and fled the scene in her car, grazing two of the agents. The charges were later dropped, and her record was expunged.
Among other things, her 47-page suit, filed Tuesday in Richmond Circuit Court, alleges malicious prosecution, failure to train ABC agents appropriately, and six counts of assault and battery.
Michael Kelly, director of communications for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, said, “It’s incredibly unfortunate that the situation that night in Charlottesville occurred at all.
“As this case proceeds, the Attorney General’s Office will defend the commonwealth’s interests and work to ensure a just and reasonable outcome,” Kelly said.
The suit states that Daly, of Henrico County, “does not and never has consumed alcohol or abused drugs, and/or her parents, on her behalf, have incurred significant legal, medical and other costs, and will continue to do so in the future due to the malicious, intentional, and/or grossly negligent actions of the (d)efendants.” She has a tremor in her right hand, intense anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems as a result of the April 11 incident, the suit alleges.
According to the suit, Daly and two friends went to a Harris Teeter store in Daly’s Chevrolet Trailblazer, arriving shortly before 10 p.m. Among other things, they wanted to purchase cookie dough to make cookies for a charity fundraiser the next day.
Among other items purchased by one of Daly’s friends was a case of canned LaCroix sparkling water. The women walked into the parking lot, one of them carrying the clearly visible sparkling water.
Seven ABC agents were in the parking lot watching for young-looking individuals and checking their identification to ensure no state laws were bring broken. Two agents followed the three to their car.
Daly got behind the wheel, one friend sat in the front passenger seat and placed the sparkling water on the floor and the other friend got in the back seat. Before starting the car, Daly saw two people approach the car and begin banging on the windows.
The two agents, says the suit, “allegedly displayed their badges hanging from necklaces which at the time and under the circumstances were not clearly visible or readable.”
The agents warned Daly not to turn on the car, but she and a friend were unable to open the windows using buttons because the car was not running. Other agents ran to the car.
The suit alleges that Daly called 911 on her cellphone, which she handed to a friend. The friend told the operator that they could not tell if the agents were real law enforcement officers.
Daly “was shaking and saying, ‘I don’t know what to do!’” One agent suddenly drew a gun, pointing it toward the ground, which caused the friend in the front seat to jump into the rear seat.
When an agent tried to break a passenger window with a steel flashlight, Daly drove off with some of the agents chasing on foot. She drove out of the parking lot and stopped at a red light intending to drive to a police station.
While at the red light, the 911 operator confirmed to the women that they were real ABC agents, according to the suit.
Police arrived on the scene and drove Daly to the police station, where an ABC agent swore out a criminal complaint that led to Daly’s arrest for assaulting two agents and for failing to stop when ordered.
Daly spent the night in jail and was released the following afternoon. On June 27, the charged were dropped by the Charlottesville commonwealth’s attorney. On Oct. 22, the arrest and court records were expunged.
On Nov. 7, alleges the suit, ABC released an investigation of the incident that said two agents violated policy concerning the drawn weapon and striking the passenger window with a flashlight.
“The agents acted with actual malice, out of embarrassment and disgrace for their own intentional and grossly negligent acts and charged (Daly) with three felonies and did so out of anger and personal spite,” alleges the suit filed by Richmond lawyers James B. Thorsen and John K. Honey Jr..