A 2013 case involving a black man who was drinking an Arizona iced tea in a parking lot has finally been resolved, with all charges against the defendant being dismissed.
In April of 2013, Christopher Beatty was standing next to his car in the parking lot of a state owned ABC liquor store in Fayetteville, North Carolina, drinking from a can of Arizona iced tea. He was approached by a man who questioned what he was drinking. That man, who was not in uniform, and did not immediately identify himself as law enforcement, demanded to see the can that Beatty was drinking from. Beatty showed him the can, but that wasn’t good enough. The man, now identified as Alcoholic Beverage Control officer Rick Libero, continued to harass Beatty, and demand that Beatty give him the can, even after Beatty showed him the label, and held the can close enough that Libero should have been able to note that there was no aroma of alcohol.
After a back and forth involving the can of tea, Libero demanded that Beatty leave the property. When Beatty refused, on the grounds that he was preparing to go inside the store to make a purchase, Libero wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him. Beatty was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.
Beatty is a former sergeant in the 82nd Airborne, who performs as a rapper known as Xstravagant. He was being recorded for a music video by a friend when the confrontation occurred, so the whole incident was caught on camera.
Judge rules Libero’s actions unconstitutional.
On Thursday, Cumberland County District Court Judge Lou Olivera ruled that the stop was unconstitutional, and that any evidence gathered was therefore inadmissible. The Fayetteville Observer says that Libero testified he believed Beatty was holding the can in a suspicious manner. That was his basis for the stop. How exactly does one hold a can “in a suspicious manner,” anyway? Apparently judge Olivera wondered the same thing.
In a strange statement, Assistant District Attorney Charles Scott said,
I clearly disagree with the decision. It’s [a reflection of] what’s going on in many parts of the country. If you arrest or attempt to arrest people, there appears to be great anti-police sentiment in certain quarters.
Is Scott advocating for the ability of the police to arrest people for drinking iced tea? That’s what it sounds like.
The video of the confrontation shows that Libero was on extremely shaky ground. Beatty was not behaving unusually, and the audio shows that he was speaking clearly and his speech was not slurred. Beatty also had no problem standing or walking. So, why did Libero choose to provoke the confrontation? Beatty’s lawyer, Allen Rogers, provides the likely answer. “[It was] no more than a hunch,” he said. A hunch caused by “drinking tea while black?”
Here’s the video of the confrontation. You be the judge. (Caution: strong language)[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbzUH90Sm0E]
Image via Screen Capture