A former soldier and aspiring rapper was arrested in April of 2013 after he refused to hand over a can of iced tea to a man who said he was a police officer. Now, almost two years after his surreal arrest, Christopher Lamont Beatty, 28, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, has finally been cleared of all charges stemming from the seemingly outrageous incident.
Beatty, originally from Utica, New York, had been a staff sergeant with the 82nd Airborne at the Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina. An aspiring rapper who uses the stage name Xstravagant, Beatty was standing in the parking lot of an ABC liquor store on Morganton Road in Fayetteville on April 27, 2013, when he was approached by a man demanding that he turn over the beverage can in his hand.
Because Beatty was in the process of shooting a music video, the entire incident — which ended with Beatty thrown to the ground and handcuffed — was captured on video, which is viewable at the top of this page.
The man who approached Beatty was not in uniform and did not display a badge. Only when an astonished Beatty asked him who he was did the man — who turned out to be Alcohol and Beverage Control Enforcement Officer Rick Libero — identify himself as “police.”
As seen in the video, Beatty cooperatively showed Libero that the can did not contain an alcoholic beverage, but instead was just what the labeling advertised it was — Arizona “Half and Half,” a combination of Iced Tea and pink lemonade.
But when Beatty declined to surrender his beverage to Libero, he was arrested and charged with trespassing and resisting a public officer.
But on Thursday, Cumberland County District Court Judge Lou Olivera threw the case out of court — following nearly two years of delays — ruling that Libero’s stop of Beatty was an unconstitutional violation of Beatty’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Because the trespassing and resistance charges stemmed from the unconstitutional stop, the judge ruled they were “fruit of the poisoned tree” and therefore had to be thrown out.
“Fruit of the poisoned tree” is a legal expression meaning that evidence or charges that originate with a violation of a suspect’s constitutional rights cannot be admitted in court.
On the witness stand, Libero admitted that he had no reason to stop Beatty and demand he turn over the iced tea can, other than his “suspicion” that the can contained alcohol — even when Beatty showed him that it did not.
Beatty’s lawyer, Allen Rogers, told the judge that Beatty had given Libero no cause for that suspicion.
“This is a former soldier, and there’s no history of anything like that,” the attorney told the court.
“I’m astounded that this is finally over,” a relieved Beatty said after Thursday’s hearing.
But Prosecutor Charles Scott said that he “disagreed” with the judge’s ruling and blamed the dismissal of the charges stemming from the iced tea arrest of Christopher Beatty on “anti-police sentiment.”