Surgeon general pleads not guilty to charge of being in park closed for coronavirus
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams pleaded not guilty to charges of being in a park that was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press reports.
A lawyer for the surgeon general on Monday pleaded not guilty on his behalf, the AP reports. Adams received a criminal citation from police in Honolulu earlier this year after he and an aide entered a closed state park to take pictures, the news outlet reported.
Adams apparently did not ask for “special treatment” when he received the citation in August, according to Lex Smith, who was representing him. He reportedly told Honolulu police that Adams and the aide were unaware of the park’s closure.
“During his visit to Oahu, the surgeon general was cited for accidentally violating the mayor’s emergency order, due to his misunderstanding of the law. He has not asked for, nor has he received, any special treatment in connection with this citation, and will respond to it appropriately,” Smith told the AP in early October.
Dennis Anderson-Villaluz, an aide to the attorney general, was also cited and pleaded not guilty.
Michael Green, who is representing Adams in Hawaii, accused the state of treating Adams “like he brought the pandemic here,” according to AP. Green said that officials waived a requirement for Adams to quarantine for 14 days when he arrived in the state because he was helping the state.
“I’m not suggesting for a minute that because he’s the surgeon general … his rights are any greater than other citizens,” Green said according to AP. “But he shouldn’t be treated worse because of that status. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
A spokesperson for the Honolulu prosecuting attorney’s office said in a statement to AP that “no one is given special treatment under the law regardless of who they are,” adding “all defendants have the same right to due process as anyone else.”
Gov. David Ige (D) began closing some state parks in March due to COVID-19 and later announced the closure of all Oahu parks in August, around the time when Adams and Anderson-Villaluz were cited, due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Numerous officials in the Trump administration have been criticized for publicly disregarding COVID-19 regulations. Multiple people at the White House became infected in October, including President Trump and first lady Melania Trump.