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From the Archives: Attorney General Cuccinelli calls Charlottesville ABC sting operation 'overkill'

Attorney General Cuccinelli calls Charlottesville ABC sting operation 'overkill'
July 3, 2013 4:17 PM MST

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli characterized as “overkill” an ABC sting operation in Charlottesville that resulted in a University of Virginia coed spending a night in jail and being charged with three felonies.

Ken Cuccinelli ABC sting Elizabeth Daly Charlottesville
Cuccinelli, who is also the 2013 Republican nominee for governor, made his remarks during a July 3 interview with afternoon radio host Coy Barefoot on WCHV-FM.

The April 11th incident has received national attention since the charges against Elizabeth Daly were dropped by Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman on June 27. is currently circulating a petition demanding that the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control apologize to Daly and her two companions and to discipline the officers involved.

Late in the evening of April 11, Daly and two friends purchased cookie dough, ice cream, and canned sparkling water at the Harris Teeter store in Barracks Road Shopping Center. A group of six ABC agents, mistaking the water for beer, approached them.

The women did not recognize the agents as law enforcement personnel, called 911 to report their fears, panicked, and drove away. Daly was subsequently charged with striking two of the agents with her car and evading arrest, charges that brought with them the threat of up to 15 years in prison.

Well-placed concern

“I think your concern for overkill is well-placed,” Cuccinelli told Barefoot. “Mind you, I have not spoken to the agency about this,” he explained, so his knowledge of the situation has been based upon press reports.

However, Cuccinelli added, “these folks have a job to do, but do you really need a half dozen of them? Let's say this was hard liquor” that Daly allegedly bought. “So what?”

Based on the descriptions he had seen, the Attorney General said, “it seems to me that frankly – even if she bought beer or something – she got more than enough punishment in jail.”

Cuccinelli said, putting himself in the shoes of the women that night, “if I see a bunch of men surrounding me, that's going to instill a lot of fear in me.”

'Extreme measures'

Noting that, as an undergraduate at UVA, he had helped start a sexual assault prevention group on campus, Cuccinelli explained that he is “glad it didn't turn out worse than it did. It would have turned out worse for the agents. If I'm defending myself and I'm in my car, and I'm a young woman worried about sexual assault, I'm going to use extreme measures to keep myself safe.”

Why, he asked, “do we have six ABC agents staking out one store? It doesn't seem particularly wise. You end up with confrontations like this that could turn out a lot worse.”

Asked by Barefoot if he would teach his daughters to behave with the same sort of caution that Daly and her companions displayed that night, Cuccinelli exclaimed: “Absoflippinlutely!

“I would never suggest to my daughters that they just trust what they've been told,” by people who might or might not be law enforcement officers. Those women, he said, “did exactly the right thing” by calling 911 and attempting to drive to the nearest police station.

“The important thing for us on the law enforcement side is we need to learn from this,” Cuccinelli said. “We need to be more concerned about the perspective of the person on the street.”

He pointed out that “the average person buying alcohol, even if they're buying it illegally, does not have the idea of escalating [the act] violently to complete the crime.”

Cuccinelli expressed confidence that higher-level officials at the ABC had already “had some serious conversations with [the agents] about their tactics.”

Looking forward, the gubernatorial candidate concluded, “what the rest of us need to do is [to ensure] the likelihood of this ever happening again gets as close to zero as we can make it.”

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on July 3, 2013. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.