Martese Johnson and his attorney, Daniel Watkins, at a news conference in Charlottesville, Va. 
NBC News Screenshot

Martese Johnson, the University of Virginia honors student who was arrested by authorities early Wednesday, did not try to use a fake ID to enter a bar, his attorney said at a news conference Thursday in Charlottesville, Va.

Early reports suggested that the third-year student had tried to use a fake ID to enter the Trinity Irish Pub, a popular off-campus hangout. Attorney Daniel Watkins gave a detailed account of the events and said the ID that Johnson presented was valid and that the issue began over the zip code, according to the UVA student publication the Cavalier Daily.

“Martese presented a valid Illinois state identification card, issued in 2011,” Watkins told those gathered, the Cavalier Daily reports. “The employee then asked Martese for a zip code, and he recited his mother’s Chicago city zip code at her current address, which is different from the Chicago city zip code on the identification card, which was nearly four years old.”

Johnson was denied entry around 12:45 a.m. Wednesday. Officers with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control approached Johnson, and while authorities have been tight-lipped about their version of events, cellphone video shows a bloodied Johnson being held down and handcuffed.


Johnson was charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice, and a court date was set for March 26, according to NBC News.

“We intend to fight the criminal charges against him with the utmost vigor,” Watkins said at the news conference, the Cavalier Daily reports.


Johnson stood beside his attorney at the news conference but did speak, instead issuing a statement through his attorney. “I was shocked that my face was slammed into the pavement across the road from my school,” he said in the statement. “I trust the scars on my face and head will one day heal, but the trauma of what those officers did will stay with me forever.”

Read more at the Cavalier Daily and NBC News.