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Man accused of violating COVID-19 rules

LIHU‘E — State Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe denied a Kaua‘i man’s motion to dismiss his case with prejudice at a court hearing Tuesday morning.

Joel McDonald, 41, who chose to represent himself after being advised by Wantanbe of his right to have a public defender, is contesting misdemeanor charges for allegedly disobeying the governor’s and mayor’s emergency proclamation by refusing to wear a mask at Costco.

McDonald said he submitted an “affidavit of truth” about his reason for not wearing a mask. According to court records, there does not appear to be any submission of an “affidavit of truth” provided to the prosecutor before the hearing.

McDonald gave the state five days to respond to the affidavit, and if they didn’t respond, he felt entitled to a default judgment.

McDonald’s unsuccessful argument did not raise any issues that would warrant dismissal.

McDonald presented further arguments in support of his notice of default and motion to dismiss with prejudice. McDonald was provided with an appropriate mask to wear in the courthouse after his mask didn’t meet the criteria in the middle of his hearing.

In documents filed by county Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Loos, he argued any factual issues or defenses raised would be for a fact-finder to determine at trial.

Loos further argued a dismissal in the case at this stage would undermine the state’s interest in prosecuting the alleged crime, which directly posed a threat to the public health of the community in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Watanabe sided with the state given that McDonald struggled to follow basic court procedures by not properly filing paperwork before his hearing, and cited that the nature of his alleged charge could potentially endanger the public’s health and safety.

The incident occurred on Sept. 5, when Kaua‘i Police Department officer Kristopher Breyer investigated McDonald’s alleged violation.

According to court documents, when Breyer approached McDonald, he asked him where his mask was, and the officer observed that he wasn’t following social-distancing protocols by standing within 6 feet of other patrons without a mask.

McDonald responded by showing the officer a lanyard and stating that that exempted him from wearing a mask due to “religious reasons.”

McDonald expounded on his reasoning, saying the information on his placard references federal law, which he believed superseded state and county laws and thereby exempted him of Kaua‘i’s rules to wear a mask.

After being questioned, McDonald was arrested for violating the county’s emergency proclamation mandating wearing of masks in public, which was put in place in July.

McDonald’s trial is scheduled for March 1, 2021.
Source: The Garden Island

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