Jerome Adams and an aide were standing in Kualoa Park on on August 23rd during their Covid-fighting visit here. Standing, not sitting. Snapping a photo of Chinaman’s Hat.
Along came a Honolulu policeman. Oh, boy, caught one in a park while the emergency order is in effect banning people from the parks!
So, yes, the cop writes a citation. One that carries a maximum conviction penalty of a $5,000 fine, or up to a year in jail, or both. Yes, sir, that must have given the cop a thrill and a story to tell. Nailed the Surgeon General of the United States, the highest health official in the land. Nobody escapes The Law. Adams gets arraigned next month, probably with lawyer Michael Green standing in for him in the local courtroom.
I don’t believe in letting VIPs off where serious violation of law, or even speeding tickets, are involved. But come on now. How much do you want to be a laughing stock for nailing a good works, short-term visitor who likely didn’t have an inkling you couldn’t set so much as one foot in a park at that period in the emergency law?
Couldn’t the cop have said “sorry, but the park’s off limits during the emergency. But you can stand here alongside the highway and get some great photos”?
Two opposing points of law will be in play if this case is allowed to go to trial (and Green indicates his client would ask for a jury trial): One is the old saw that ignorance is no excuse at law. The other is that one must have the intent to violate a law in order to be guilty. I can’t see Adams having that intent, but I can see him having that ignorance of the local law.
But what a waste of our precious court time, and even the seating of a jury that’s likely to laugh it off.
True, Adams had sent an email to state officials requesting an exemption for Hawaii’s quarantine for travelers. The email back confirming an exemption included the mayor’s rule about closed parks. But I’m betting all that was handled by aides and likely never seen by Adams.
I hope the prosecutor decides on nolle prosequi on this one. We get enough laugh lines in the national press without being noted for criminalizing the Surgeon General for taking a photo in a park.