The state of Virginia will spend $212,500 in taxpayer funds to settle a $40 million lawsuit filed by Elizabeth Daly, the University of Virginia student who spent a night and much of the next day in jail after seven cunningly plain-clothed agents from the Alcoholic Beverage Control division ambushed her for the crime of purchasing bottled water.
Attorneys for Daly reached the settlement agreement with lawyers with the Virginia Attorney General late Wednesday, reports The Daily Progress.
Daly’s attorneys filed her complaint in March. The 12 counts include constitutional rights violations and the use of excessive force. The defendants in the case are the state and the seven agents from the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control agency.
The incident happened last June, after Daly (then 20, now 21) and two of her friends purchased a sky-blue carton of LaCroix sparkling water, cookie dough and ice cream at a local supermarket.
The seven agents sprung aggressively into action, suspecting that the student was carrying a 12-pack of beer. Police admitted that a high-strung agent vaulted onto the hood of Daly’s Chevrolet TrailBlazer. She contends that one of them also drew a gun. (RELATED: UVA Student Jailed For Possession Of Bottled Water, Ice Cream)
Daly, along with two roommates who were in the car, did what reasonable, unarmed people usually do when violently pounced upon by seven people. They tried to get away.
“They were showing unidentifiable badges after they approached us, but we became frightened, as they were not in anything close to a uniform,” Daly wrote in an account of the incident.
“I couldn’t put my windows down unless I started my car, and when I started my car they began yelling to not move the car, not to start the car. They began trying to break the windows. My roommates and I were … terrified.”
According to court records obtained by the Charlottesville paper, Daly “grazed” two agents with her vehicle. At this time, the records state, the unidentified passenger in the front seat of her SUV was yelling “go, go, go” and simultaneously diving into the back seat.
Once the three students managed to make it out of the parking lot, they called 911. Daly testified that her goal was to drive immediately to a police station. However, she was stopped by a vehicle with identifiable sirens and lights.
Daly had just left a “Take Back the Night” vigil on the famous University of Virginia campus, which was founded by the man who drafted the Declaration of Independence. She was eventually able to explain that she had purchased the water and junk food for a sorority benefit. She also apologized.
The seven Alcoholic Beverage Control agents were not satisfied, though. Daly was charged Daly with three felonies. After a public outcry and embarrassing national ridicule, all charges were dropped and Daly’s record was completely expunged.
The civil lawsuit against the state and its overzealous alcohol control agents followed.
“My goal throughout this case has been to reach a resolution that is just and fair for all parties, including Ms. Daly, the ABC and its agents, and the Commonwealth and its taxpayers,” said Attorney General Mark Herring in a statement obtained by The Daily Progress. “After careful consideration of the potentially significant costs of taking this case to trial, I believe we have reached such an outcome.”
Daly’s lawyers initially offered $1.5 million in the settlement talks. The attorney general’s side countered with $100,000.
In the 47-page civil suit, Daly’s attorneys claimed that the alcohol control agents who have now cost taxpayers $212,500 mocked Daly at least a month after the incident and made her “sound dumb and silly for being confused.”